Sustainable Infrastructure for the Social Economy: Cluster-based Social Enterprise Models
Soots, Lena K.
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The social economy is a mosaic of organizations, from credit unions and co-operatives to social enterprises and non-profit organizations. Many non-profit organizations and social enterprises work on shoestring budgets and workspace is often the second largest budget expense after salaries. High overhead costs take resources away from programs. Lack of affordable space has forced dislocation on many non-profit organizations, both in times of economic boom (due to rising commercial rents), and in times of government and funding cutbacks. In response to these challenges, cluster-based social enterprise models (CBSE) have emerged as collective models to provide necessary physical infrastructure and resources as well as to facilitate co-operation, collaboration and network building within the sector. Beyond co-location and the provision of physical space, CBSEs are intended to facilitate strategic collaboration and alliance building. Given the increasing need for inter- and cross-disciplinary approaches to the complex social and ecological problems that face our societies, these centres can play a key role in development of the sector and can serve as potential hotbeds for social innovation and creative problem-solving. This research project will examine CBSE models as a mechanism for developing sustainable infrastructure for the social economy and to determine their effectiveness in enhancing organizational performance and social innovation.