Where On the Map Are Social Enterprises?

We know a social enterprise is a business whose purpose it is to do good. But what kind of ecosystem does it take to support social enterprises? And where do they actually thrive? Find out in our latest video!

Full video transcript available here.

We know a social enterprise is a business whose purpose it is to do good.  But what does it take to support social enterprises? And where do social enterprises actually thrive?

In 2017, researchers from SocEntCity surveyed over 400 social entrepreneurs and examined social enterprises across the country to answer these pressing questions. And with that, they’ve come up with the top 21 US cities with the strongest ecosystems for social enterprises.

So what makes these cities so special? What conditions exist there that support a thriving social enterprise sector?

The 21 cities are ranked according to four pillars of the ecosystem framework developed by SocEntCity:

The first pillar is funding. Social entrepreneurs require sources of capital, and that includes seed funding, grants and philanthropic and venture capital – from both public and private sources.

But you can’t thrive on financial capital alone! The second pillar of the framework is a key driving factor, and that’s human capital. Finding great people to be team members, mentors, employees, and advisors is a big consideration for the success of your social enterprise. In fact, social entrepreneurs surveyed in the report said access to human capital was the most important of the four pillars.

Next, there’s the fabric of the ecosystem: the overall quality of life in your city. That means everything from diversity and cost of living, to transportation. These all help determine an entrepreneur’s experience living and working in a region.

And last but not least is the operational environment. That is, do the regulations in your city nurture social enterprises? And what is the market receptivity overall?  People’s attitudes and perceptions about your business can either stifle your success or be a big part of maximizing your social impact.

Let’s zoom in on a few cities to see this framework in action!

Boston was rated the US city with the best social enterprise ecosystem.  Many social entrepreneurs reported that it is relatively easy to secure funding there. It also ranked highly in supportive regulation and market receptivity – it’s a city with high levels of awareness and entrepreneurial activity. Boston also boasts a highly-educated population with a great university presence, and that attracts lots of skilled talent to social causes.

Right behind Boston are San Francisco, Washington D.C., and New York City. San Francisco and D.C. ranked numbers 1 and 2, respectively, in human capital for their ability to attract and retain talent in the regions.  The Big Apple ranked number 2 in funding, with strong support from both private investment and public spending.

Social enterprises are also thriving in CiTTA’s hometown – Chicago!  The Windy City is ranked number 5 overall on the list. In particular, it ranked top in quality of life, driven especially by the diversity of the city’s population and by the ease of transportation access. It also ranked highly in public spending on social innovation, and in talent recruitment due to the high-quality universities there.  These are all important factors for social entrepreneurs looking to plant seeds for social change.

At CiTTA Partnership, we’re proud to be part of the ecosystem supporting a thriving social enterprise sector and a mission-driven economy! What does your city do well when it comes to supporting social enterprises? Let us know in the comments below!