Nonprofits are important part of local social economy

The website for the Institute for Social Entrepreneurship, a Rochester-based organization whose mission deals with promoting social entrepreneurship, describes a "social entrepreneur" as "someone attuned to both business and the big picture; who applies his or her business expertise to create social value; and who provides smart solutions to community problems by thinking like an entrepreneur." The term is not limited to individuals. Social entrepreneurs can be businesses or organizations, too.

According to the Social Economy Working Group’s website, social entrepreneurism is part of the "social economy" — an emerging field that includes several related concepts. The organization’s website states that "[t]he social economy can include traditional nonprofit organizations such as educational and medical institutions, nonprofit business applications …, credit unions, worker owned cooperatives, and for-profit social purpose businesses." The group was created in 2012 by a consortium of Rochester and Toronto human-service organizations, colleges and universities, and consists of nonprofit and for-profit individuals and organizations planning to create or already involved in a social enterprise that benefits the community; educators and theoreticians that focus on promoting social enterprises, social entrepreneurship and social innovation; and providers of related services in the fields of financing, legal, basic business practices, accounting, banking and other areas.

Local nonprofit businesses, such as Compeer Rochester Inc., are considered by some to be an important part of the local social economy. With roots going back to 1973, Compeer Rochester works with mental-health providers and volunteers to provide community-based mental-wellness programs for youths, adults and veterans and their families. The mission of Compeer Rochester includes providing healing friendships to community members living with mental illness — and shattering the stigma of mental illness.

Maggie Burgos has been working as a family peer mentor for Compeer Rochester for more than two years. She takes internal referrals regarding calls from families in need that are already working with Compeer Rochester, and assesses what she can do to help. She then meets with the families and provides support and information, including referrals to local agencies. Burgos, the mother of a child with social and emotional challenges, says that it’s "pretty awesome" to be able to share her family’s story with others — "to let people know they’re not alone."

Luis Ormaechea is an attorney with the law firm Harris Beach PLLC and a member of the Rochester Hispanic Business Association’s board of directors.

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