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The long history of social enterprise impact

WAY BACK WHEN… in 1945, Chicago Businessman Walter Paepcke, had a grand vision – he was going to create the new intellectual hub to serve as a moral foundation for the American business community. Walter’s bold vision would famously become an epicenter for a new post-war-wave of consciously aware business folk. This place of course, was Aspen.

Now some seventy-odd-years later… they’re at it again! Last July, the Summit Group (in the tradition of old Aspen) held its inaugural event, titled “Outside”. This 3-day long social entrepreneurship Schmoozing Extravaganza, was on the top of their very own community ski hill, Powder Mountain, Utah. With a mission statement: “To build community, catalyze entrepreneurship, address global issues, and support artistic achievement, in an effort to make our world a more joyful place,” this event was certainly an exercise in “glamping for social enterprise”.

But you needn’t travel all the way to Colorado or Utah to catch the ultra-hip and socially conscious business folk, clamoring around a ski-hill and inspiring one another on how to save the world. Nope, right here, in our own neighbourhood, you can do all that. For four-years now, Whistler has been the official home of the annual Grow Conference – possibly one of the best start-up themed socially conscious business events in the world.

But with all this fan-fair and excitement and conferences and ski hills… What exactly is Social Enterprise then? Is it self-style do-gooders trying to out-do one another in the most expensive locations on the planet?

No, of course not!

Social Enterprise has a long history, far older and bigger than Aspen or Powder Mountain, Utah. But the inspiring essence at the heart of all social enterprise makes it a sexy platform for camaraderie within the business world. By definition: “A socialenterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than maximizing profits for external shareholders.”

There’s that inspirational bit again!

But “inspiration” is too short of an identifier for what really happens in social enterprise. In actuality these are more often than not sophisticated complicated business entities. Since 2006, Realize has been on the ground floor (right here in Vancouver) helping local mission-based and socially conscious businesses, get either up off the ground, or make sure they keep flying high.

Among Realize’s long list of local area partners, is everything from organic farmers, to grass roots advocacy groups for the cities most vulnerable citizens. Inclusion BC, a homegrown advocacy group started by the loving family members of people with developmental disorders, is one of Realize’s longest served partners. Then there’s Bard On the Beach – Vancouver’s famous summertime, open sky, Shakespearean theater festival.

When the long established Bard turned to Realize for help, Realize delivered. They came in with a solid plan to build a stronger, more resilient and financially sustainable organization than the one this organization had become. Working closely with the board and various levels of management, Realize re-configured the organization’s financial systems and budgeting practices; re-positioning the company for continued prosperity.

Real advice, Real help, the kind of hardheaded business knowledge that makes sure inspired and socially conscious leaders keep their bottom line, in line. Thereby allowing inspiration to flow forth and visionaries to focus on figuring out: “How do we make this world a better place?”

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