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Transitions Towns, Social Entrepreneurship and Ways to Change Community

Changing a community requires system change. Social entrepreneurship is taking shape with variations across the globe and you can be part of these change-agent systems.

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Community Solution by Carolyn Allen

Systems....change is all about systems. I learned this in gardening, and in business, and in nonprofits. And in family. Systems provide a structure with a shared purpose and the motivation and skills of the members to make something "good" happen.

I discovered the "Transition Town Santa Barbara" website and was delighted to see that they have become part of a worldwide movement of caring scientists and professionals and caring adults who are putting together a working system for better communities and better business concepts that are truly the productive arm of the community, which I believe should be the honorable mission of EVERY business.

Transition Towns

A "transition town" starts when a small collection of motivated individuals within a community come together with a shared concern: how can our community respond to the challenges, and opportunities, of Peak Oil and Climate Change?

They begin by forming an initiating group and then adopt the Transition Model (explained here) with the intention of engaging a significant proportion of the people in their community to kick off a Transition Initiative. Transition Towns are formed as a process... a comprehensive and creative process of:

  • awareness raising around peak oil, climate change and the need to undertake a community lead process to rebuild resilience and reduce carbon
  • connecting with existing groups in the community
  • building bridges to local government
  • connecting with other transition initiatives
  • forming groups to look at all the key areas of life (food, energy, transport, health, heart & soul, economics & livelihoods, etc)
  • kicking off projects aimed at building people's understanding of resilience and carbon issues and community engagement
  • eventually launching a community defined, community implemented "Energy Descent Action Plan" over a 15 to 20 year timescale

Examples of Transition Towns

The Transition Network includes hubs in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, and Japan. Santa Barbara, CA


A related concept to the Transition Town is the "Community Interest Company"...a UK term that is much like the American "cooperative" or "not for profit" organization.

Community Interest Company

The Transition Town movement has created a legal structure called a "Community Interest Company" that could be used to transfer property into co-operative status, create permaculture homesteads, and thus give access to land.

A CIC can be "for the use of people who want to conduct a business or other activity for community benefit, and not purely for private advantage. This is achieved by a 'community interest test' and an 'asset lock', which ensure that the CIC is established for community purposes and the assets and profits are dedicated to these purposes."

Community interest companies (CIC) are a new type of limited company in the UK designed specifically for those wishing to operate for the benefit of the community rather than for the benefit of the owners of the company. This means that a CIC cannot be formed or used solely for the personal gain of a particular person, or group of people.

CICs can be limited by shares, or by guarantee, and will have a statutory “Asset Lock” to prevent the assets and profits being distributed, except as permitted by legislation. This ensures the assets and profits are retained within the CIC for community purposes, or transferred to another asset-locked organisation, such as another CIC or charity.

A CIC cannot be formed to support political activities and a company that is a charity cannot be a CIC, unless it gives up its charitable status. However, a charity may apply to register a CIC as a subsidiary company.

The Social Enterprise Coalition (SEC) is another coalition in the UK which represents a wide range of social enterprises, regional and national support networks and other related organisations.[6]

Social Entrepreneurship...a US Version

Social entrepreneurship is the work of a social entrepreneur. A social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change. Whereas a business entrepreneur typically measures performance in profit and return, a social entrepreneur assesses success in terms of the impact s/he has on society. While social entrepreneurs often work through nonprofits and citizen groups, many work in the private and governmental sectors.

The main aim of a social entrepreneurship as well as social enterprise is to further social and environmental goals.

Socially motivated business entities vary widely across the globe. North American organizations tend to have a strongly individualistic stance focused on a handful of exceptional leaders, while others in Asia and Europe emphasize more how social entrepreneurs work within teams, networks and movements for change. But that is changing in North America with the changing economy and our recognition of global citizenship.

According to Wikipedia's overview of social entrepreneurship: The terms social entrepreneur and social entrepreneurship were first used in the literature on social change in the 1960 and 1970s.

Social entrepreneurship strategies came into widespread use in the 1980s and 1990s, promoted by Bill Drayton the founder of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, and others such as Charles Leadbeater. Michael Young was a leading promoter of social enterprise (1950s to the 1990s) and in the 1980s was described by Professor Daniel Bell at Harvard as 'the world's most successful entrepreneur of social enterprises' because of his role in creating over 60 new organizations worldwide, including a series of Schools for Social Entrepreneurs in the UK. One well known contemporary social entrepreneur is Muhammad Yunus, founder and manager of Grameen Bank and its growing family of social venture businesses, who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

Today, nonprofits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), foundations, governments and individuals promote, fund, and advise social entrepreneurs around the planet. A growing number of colleges and universities are establishing programs focused on educating and training social entrepreneurs.

Organizations include:

  • Ashoka: Innovators for the Public
  • Skoll Foundation
  • Omidyar Network
  • Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship
  • Root Cause
  • Canadian Social Entrepreneurship Foundation
  • New Profit Inc.
  • Echoing Green
One example of a successful social entrepreneurial program is Ashoka's Changemakers "open sourcing social solutions" initiative uses an online platform for what it calls collaborative competitions to build communities of practice around pressing issues.

Joining the International Community

The International Network of Social Entrepreneurs' [INSE] vision is to have different stakeholders combining their expertise, skills, talents and passion, working in a highly collaborative fashion toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) signed by 191 U.N nations back in 2002.

INSE's main objective is to increase Global Social Responsibility (GSR) worldwide and inspire the largest possible number of entrepreneurs to become social entrepreneurs for the betterment of humanity and an increased protection of planet Earth.

Created in 2007 by Christophe Poizat, INSE has grown into a community of 4,700+ members from five continents: seasoned CEOs, serial entrepreneurs, senior business executives, IT experts, senior recruiters, top artists from many countries around the world, all determined to make the world a more positive place now, and for generations to come...

This site provides INSE members with a Global Web 2.0 Communication Platform, shared calendar, discussion forums, files & media gallery and member profiles. New members can learn the basics from the INSE Starter Kit to ensure your journey starts on the right foot.

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| governance | entrepreneur |


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