Social Enterprise Update: The First "Social Silicon Valley"
<p>Recently, another blogger at Just Means wrote a piece proposing pillars of a new <a href="allthings/393/The-Inspired-Economy.html">Inspired Economy</a> for the future. It's a great piece, throwing some light on dark economic times.</p>
<p>It also made me think about something new happening in the field of social enterprise: the creation of dedicated social enterprise campuses. A recent article in the Guardian highlighted a new company in Spain that is trying to build the world's first "<a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/jan/07/spain-basque-co-operative-... Silicon Valley." </a> Talk about inspiring. No room for thinking small in an economic downturn for these entrepreneurs, who rightly see more need than ever for businesses that are trying to improve their communities as a primary mission. </p>
<p>Carlos Fernández Isoird and Inigo Urkidi started Business Innovation Brokers (BIB) to create what they claim will be the world's first industrial park for <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/socialenterprises">social enterprises</a> and co-operatives. It hopes to attract to the campus-style park new start-up social businesses, alongside non-governmental organisations, foundations and institutions from around the world that promote and support social enterprise. A school of social innovation will provide a research and development function for the park's occupants.</p>
<p> Apparently, the Basque region in Spain, where they propose to site the campus, has a long history of supporting co-operatives. These co-operatives use business methods and practices to reach social goals. According to the article, "hundreds of co-ops have set up all over the region, attracted by generous tax allowances in return for investing 10% of their annual surpluses in the local community to support education, cultural activities and youth employment."</p>
<p>Spain isn't the only place where new social innovation campuses are planned for the future. According to Geoff Mulgan, director of the Young Foundation and co-author of How to Innovate: the Tools for Social Innovation, the concept is taking off, with similar business parks expected in Australia, New Zealand, Portugal and possibly Russia.</p>
<p>Seems like a good model to look at if we want to grow a new, Inspired Economy. </p>