By Rolfe Larson, Senior Consultant for Strategic and Business Planning, Joining Vision and Action (JVA)

Will Social Enterprise Survive?

We expect big changes.

This week, we enter a new era. Starting January 20, there will be significant policy and funding changes in the U.S. in healthcare, education, immigration and the environment. While we cannot predict accurately what those changes will be, or when they will happen, change is coming.

Here at Joining Vision and Action, one of our top priorities for 2017 is to evaluate and respond to these changes. Like you, we expect the new administration will bring challenges to nonprofits and to the social enterprise movement, and we’re actively engaged in our own planning process, to adjust our services and resources to be most relevant and valuable to our clients and to our communities.


So what will happen to the social enterprise movement during the Trump Era? We asked a few leaders.

The Poor Will Still Need Our Help

“The fact that I would request anonymity at this juncture should say something about the current environment. I run a nonprofit social enterprise, which is required to be nonpartisan. The poor will still need our help, kids will still need to be educated, human and civil rights will still need to be defended, and the climate situation still needs to be addressed. Our mission hasn’t changed. What has changed is the environment.

“While some doors will close, new doors will open. Solutions advocated by social entrepreneurs are more likely to be favorably received by politicians of all stripes. Now, as always, is the time to advance rather than retreat. If regulations are going to be overturned on business, why shouldn’t we request loosening of regulations that impede innovative solutions by social entrepreneurs? We social entrepreneurs are pragmatic idealists: it’s our job to play the hand we’re dealt as well as possible for the communities we serve. And of course, to fight injustice and advocate for positive change to the best of our abilities!”

We Invent Opportunity In Any Environment

“My gut feeling is that Trump will favor business-oriented approaches like social enterprise. That said, he and his administration may be less inclined to provide government support for social enterprise, based on the principal that government programs need to be downsized across the board. He and his economic advisors believe that corporate and investor support tax breaks are keys to growing the economy, and that investments in poorer communities, which many social enterprises support, are not nearly as important. Regardless of which way the wind blows, we are all about self-sustainability and innovation, and if we continue along that pathway, we will become stronger no matter who sits in the oval office.” (Paul Lamb, Man on A Mission Consulting.)

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that it will be left to socially conscious individuals and the business and investment communities to drive positive social change during Mr. Trump’s term.” (Marc Lane, Marc J. Lane Wealth Group)

“I’m putting my faith in a new generation of individuals who have the passion, the skills and the moxie to lead social enterprise into a new era, much of it fueled by the leveling power of technology — something those of us who’ve seen numerous Presidents come and go could never have foreseen.” (Jerr Boschee, Institute for Social Entrepreneurs)

New Opportunities for Smaller Impact Investors

“One possibility is that the restrictions on who can invest in a small business could be loosened, making it easier for small businesses [including for-profit social enterprises] to raise capital. As a Republican member of the SEC says, ‘by allowing only high-income and high-net-worth individuals to reap the risk and return benefits from investing in [higher-risk, higher-return] securities, the government may actually exacerbate wealth inequality.’” (Jenny Kassan)

Take Action For Our Causes

“As we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, we remember his words – ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’ We must also remember that it is up to us to bend that arch toward the causes we care about. We must move beyond talk toward action. I encourage every person and organization to involve themselves in policy change at the local, state, or national level. It is easier than you might think and it truly makes a difference. For more information on how to take action, read my recent blog on 3 Steps to Integrate Advocacy into Your Nonprofit.” (Suzanne Smith)

Social Change Is Unstoppable

While the years to come will be difficult for many people, there will be opportunities for creative and courageous people to create impact. The social enterprise sector has been making a difference in people’s lives for decades, and it will continue to do so.

Please join with us and others who share our commitment to social change, to continue this important work of using enterprise for the greater good. Together, the social enterprise movement will not only survive but flourish.

Rolfe Larson is a business and strategic planning trainer and consultant for Joining Vision and Action (JVA), the Denver-based social change organization founded almost 30 years ago. His book, Venture Forth!, was endorsed by the late Paul Newman of Newman’s Own.


JVA Offers

JVA offers an extensive calendar of training programs. Our 2-day Earned Income for Nonprofits workshop premiers February 23-24 in Denver. We anticipate launching an interactive webinar version of this workshop later this year.