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Ken Oehler, Faith Knusten and Jon Glazer presenting at ACOSE 2017
Ken Oehler (left), Faith Knusten (center), and John Glazer (right) presenting at ACOSE 2017. Photo courtesy of Brian Vadakin of Rural Action.

Voinovich School offers venture development tools to social enterprises

Austin Ambrose
May 26, 2017

Voinovich School venture development staff and local partner Habitat for Humanity detailed a new methodological approach to Social Return on Investment (SROI) at the Appalachian Conference on Social Enterprise (ACOSE) in Morgantown, West Virginia on May 19.

The team’s ACOSE presentation, “Measuring the Good You Do: Social Returns on Investment,” detailed a verifiable fiscal proxy for social good.  The methodology, tailored to a specific enterprise, results in a one-sentence summary:  “For every $1 of donor funding, a $XX equivalent benefit is realized by society as a basis of the funded work.”  The work was funded by the Sugar Bush Foundation, a regional impact investment entity.

Now in its second year, ACOSE attracts social enterprise leaders to share experiences and best practices in making a profit while ensuring a mission-driven, positive impact on their respective communities.  An appreciative audience filled the room and actively engaged in Q&A.

Presenter John Glazer, a venture development specialist at the School, detailed the background research that indicated a significant multiplier in many facets of Habitat for Humanity’s work; e.g. the positive impact of stable housing on future earning power for children in a Habitat client family.  This is only one of the many aspects in which Habitat’s clients realize socially-relevant, fiscally-definable benefit. “This methodology fits Voinovich School’s goals of expanding the venture development platform that our venture development work enabled—and the Voinovich School enhanced—to the social enterprise and nonprofit sectors,” Glazer said.

Co-presenter Kenneth Oehlers, Habitat’s Executive Director, explained that this transparent, comparable tool will enable more focused conversations with donors seeking verifiable evidence of impact. Oehlers, currently engaged in a capital campaign, enthusiastically endorsed the pilot work as immediately relevant.

“The enthusiasm of owners/managers of social enterprises is inspiring,” Oehlers said. By presenting, I was able to see the wide range of organizations that this tool can help. It is important for everyone to know what their true impact is.”

Co-presenter Faith Knutsen, also a venture development specialist at the Voinovich School, noted that the school “is fortunate to partner with strong local social enterprises like Habitat for Humanity. Ken is an essential part of our regional pilot, in which methodology melds with practice to enhance and expand mission-driven ventures for the advantage of all.”

With an overall objective of demonstrating the triple bottom line—creating social, environmental and financial impact — SROI presentation illustrates a credible and verifiable way to show how a dollar of investment produces a social outcome.

To learn more about ACOSE and the other speakers, refer to the conference’s website.