Social Economic Enterprises Based on Community-Public Partnerships

Friday, May 18th, 2018

  • A plan to spearhead the implementation of an integrated network of social economic enterprise incubators along the Front Range 

Our greatest possibilities for success in renewing the social, political, economic, and ecological fabric of our nation – and of the world at large – will come from our efforts at the community level. Such a path requires that communities develop self-reliant, self-supporting, efficient and robust inter-cooperative socio-economic foundations on which people can live happy, healthy lives and flourish. This would require enterprising community-public partnerships capable of offering a return on investment in the form of both social and economic gains at the same time; and these gains should be measured, not just in quantitative financial results alone, but also in qualitative and quantitative societal metrics as well – such as in education, health, housing, employment, social stability, individual quality of life, environmental impacts and community wellbeing.

Such a community network could be firmly grounded – both socially and financially – by relying upon the collaborative Solidarity Economics that has been successfully utilized in pockets around the world. Various movements such as Fair Trade goods, the open source model, blockchain, kibbutzim, and other cooperatives and decentralised frameworks.  Pioneers such as the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation centered in the Basque region of Spain, have demonstrated outstanding success across so many social indices, including education, housing, health and employment. These inter-cooperative economic models can provide the framework for a strong social enterprise network for our region, resting on a robust economic foundation that is not vulnerable to the whims of hot capital that flows in when there are rich pickings to be had, and then vanishes overnight when the hard times arrive – leaving devastation in its wake.

That society and economy are so interdependently fragile is directly visible in the recent – and ongoing – social and economic trauma of The Great Recession. What the Mondragon project shows us, however, is that a community with a genuinely vigorous social economic matrix can weather the most challenging of storms. When, during The Great Recession, unemployment in Spain reached an all-time low of 25% among the general population – and even 40% among twenty-somethings – the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation not only succeeded in keeping its entire workforce fully employed throughout, but it went even further by growing the enterprise from the 10th largest corporation then in Spain, into the 7th largest today, with a current international workforce that numbers approximately one hundred thousand people.

The success story of the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation demonstrates unequivocally that inter-cooperative enterprises like these, based on community-public funding, nurture both community members and the world they inhabit. To this end, we should establish just such an integrated network of social-economic enterprise incubators along the Front Range, with an initial incubator hub in the City of Boulder that houses a financial resource center together with facilities for training, education, workshops, and community meetings. These two elements of the incubator hub should, between them, be capable of assisting innovative community-centered social economic enterprises in developing all the way from seed enterprise up to full maturity; along with satellite and mobile incubators and roadshows providing access in every city in CD-2 that elects to participate in the initiative.

Partnerships with public and private schools, institutions and businesses under such frameworks will be critical. They will allow for the effective alignment and sharing of local talent and resources with vital social, technological, economic needs and pain points. Solutions cultivated and derived from our own population can be used to keep both innovation, investment, prosperity and the ones we love here in Colorado.

A major theme of this effort is to energize and support the younger generation who have been and will continue to be especially hard hit by the current socio economic paradigm. This community enterprise program would offer youth new opportunities to live and work in in CD2 which has become one of the most expensive real estate markets in the nation. Teens and young adults can be sent as volunteer emissaries to train and learn these methodologies and systems directly from Mondragon University in Spain and other reputable programs around the world. Efforts will be made to bring this understanding back to the Colorado grassroots supplementing and augmenting our local business, neighborhoods and institutions.