Pioneer Human Services: Changing Lives & Changing How Nonprofits Do Business
How entrepreneurial can a nonprofit get? Pioneer Human Services, based in Seattle, exemplifies the integration of the enterprise spirit with services to assist the marginalized, in this case, counseling, housing, and employment services for offenders and substance abusers. Pioneer shows that scale is possible – 5000 people served per year, 1750 participants engaged at any one time, 1100 enthusiastic “gung-ho” employees and a budget of $55 million per year, most of it based on earned income. Service contracts plus several commercial, profit-making social enterprises are integrated into a dynamic if complex portfolio. Highly focused and competently applied business practices are brought into the heart of Pioneer decision making and management. Although this article does not contain much critical analysis, it nevertheless illustrates the potential of an integrated approach to human services and social enterprise. It also is clear that at least some aspects of this organization’s operations are akin to that of Community Development Corporations, a community controlled institution central to CED practice. It is multi-functional, it integrates social and economic goals, it is autonomous in its governance (independent of government) and it is strategic rather than opportunistic in its orientation. Other cases in this volume, most treated in much more detail, can be found in Richard (2004), Colussi and Perry (2002), Decter and Konwall, Black (2006), Dickstein et al (1999). Together they facilitate useful comparison.