How to Measure Social Impact in Social Enterprise

Posted on October 23, 2014 in Member News

by Marissa Perry Saints, founder of Dsenyo.

Marissa is also a leader in 50 Under 40, an elite cohort of innovative social enterprise leaders brought together by SEA for training and leadership development.

Social responsibility is a growing trend among businesses across the United States. Numerous entrepreneurial ventures have sprouted in attempts to end poverty, empower women, and inspire social change in developing communities. Dsenyo is one such budding social enterprise partnering with artisan communities in Africa and Brazil to empower women through artisan design and trade.

Founded in 2009 by artist Marissa Perry Saints, Dsenyo’s partnerships have expanded from one small community in Malawi to over 100 artisans across three countries. Marissa realized that for sustainable growth of the business, there was a need to understand real social and economic impacts of the work.

So in 2013, Dsenyo developed an innovative Social Impact Survey to conduct first with partners in Malawi. The survey had two primary purposes: to aid in strategic planning and to create authentic communications pieces for customers.

To develop the survey, Dsenyo had to understand the social and cultural life of their partners in Malawi. Nine key social and economic indicators of development and change were determined through research and utilizing the expert knowledge of an in-country team. For example, the Malawi country director noted the social importance of having a cell phone, even if a plan or minutes could not be afforded. Thus, the direct and intimate connections to artisans were crucial to this development.

Additionally, Dsenyo’s company goals and priorities were considered to track progress. Of primary importance is helping artisans develop skills to start their own sustainable businesses for self-sufficiency. Therefore, asking about other means of earning income and discussing what trainings or assistance women wanted was extremely important.

Marissa, Dsenyo’s Founder, conducted the first run of this survey in Malawi during October, 2013. She and the team members interviewed 48 individuals across all four of the partner groups. The team had to be creative and flexible, as they determined some questions needed modifications. While there, it was also decided there needed to be differences in the survey for refugee partners versus women in semi-urban villages.

The response to the survey among women themselves was quite inspiring! It was found women appreciated being given a voice and were eager to discuss their challenges. The team also discussed fair trade with partners, and artisans were happy to know they were part of a global system working to make trade more equal.

Upon returning, the survey was reviewed to set a baseline from which to measure future progress. This highlighted areas where partners were doing well and areas that needed more support from Dsenyo. Some immediate steps taken include conducting cost analyses, creating new designs, and developing infographics for customers. The published social impact report which resulted from this work is here:

Resource: How to Measure Social Impact Prezi

Working with artisans requires creativity, and change is a slow process. It’s great to know that every artisan interviewed mentioned the income from Dsenyo is helping improve their lives! These earnings go towards education, developing their businesses, and providing for their families. Dsenyo is committed to proving and showing how their work is making a real difference in the lives of women around the world.


35 Years of using the Social Enterprise Business Model

Posted on October 23, 2014 in Member News

Submitted by Ted Uczen, President and CEO, FEI Behavioral Health

Emerging market pressures and increasing need mean nonprofits are trying to do more with less. It’s become imperative to utilize every creative channel at our disposal to enable our collective missions and community impact, and one way to do that is via social enterprise. A social enterprise is a unique business model that creates synergy between for-profit and nonprofit organizations, where profits earned by the for-profit company are automatically reinvested into the community through the services of the nonprofits.

One of the nation’s most successful examples of this model is the 35-year social enterprise partnership between FEI Behavioral Health, a for-profit workforce resilience, EAP and crisis management company, and its single shareholder, the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, a nonprofit human services organization. Since beginning this social enterprise structure in 1979, FEI has provided more than $30 million to support the Alliance, its members, and the communities they serve each and every day. It recently helped form the Wisconsin chapter of the Social Enterprise Alliance.

While the concept of a social enterprise is not new, it is an area that must be continually re-examined and adapted against the backdrop of our ever-changing sector. FEI and the Alliance represent a unique perspective on the latest road-tested approaches and how this model can foster sustainability through access to high-caliber expertise and supplemental revenue.

Five branches of the FEI-Alliance model
The two organizations work together on an array of revenue options that combine the commercial sensibilities of a for-profit business with the social conscience of a nonprofit through:

1. Supplemental revenues based on the Alliance’s role as sole shareholder of FEI.

2. Earned income potential for Alliance members via preferred-member status in FEI’s national crisis and EAP provider networks. When customers need access to FEI’s services, those services are provided in part by Alliance members, who are paid in turn for that service.

3. Collaborative cross-marketing of services with FEI to increase earned revenue for Alliance members.

4. Discounted availability of EAP and/or crisis services for Alliance members, who would otherwise purchase these services at higher rates, leaving less for their mission-focused work.

5. Heightened community impact and awareness among FEI customers, whose payments-for-service are reinvested in human services work through the Alliance and its members.

At FEI and the Alliance, these social enterprise synergies have allowed members to:

• Turn a losing service line into mission-focused cash on hand.
• Foster a sharing of best practices and insights.
• Teach members to replicate the model.
• Build faster, deeper connections to emerging issues like healthcare reform.
• Create ambassadors for their causes.

There is an urgency in the nonprofit sector now more than ever to find and leverage every possible synergy and resource through diversified funding streams and non-traditional relationships. We look forward to connecting on a local level with other social enterprise minded organizations through our membership in the Wisconsin SEA chapter.

FEI Behavioral Health offers flexible solutions for the full spectrum of workforce resilience goals, from EAP and wellness to crisis preparedness and management. Partnering with a wide range of corporations, government entities and non-profits, FEI is a social enterprise wholly owned by the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, a national network of nearly 500 human-serving organizations. Visit for additional information. 





Man on a Mission

Posted on October 23, 2014 in Member News

Submitted by Scot Kersgaard, JVA Consulting, LLC Senior Communications Associate

JVA is an independent consulting company who has consulted with SEA Member, Springs Rescue Mission.

The world is full of people with great ideas. Somewhat less common are people who turn those ideas into something not only real, but real good.

Terry Anderson is one of those people. Vice president of enterprise & administration at Springs Rescue Mission (SRM) in Colorado Springs, Anderson has been on a mission lately.

Springs Rescue Mission, which began life in the mid 1990s providing sandwiches to homeless people, has grown into a robust provider of food (more than 1.4 million meals served to date), emergency relief and rehabilitation services. Today, it is well beyond even that. In conjunction with Mission Catering, it now provides six- and 24-month culinary arts training programs that prepare people for jobs in the private sector.

Anderson said SRM is currently transitioning its culinary arts training to be in partnership with Social Enterprise Alliance partner,  Catalyst Kitchens a network of more than two dozen organizations similar to SRM, which will allow men to move into private sector jobs faster.

Anderson, who joined SRM about 18 months ago, says he was brought on largely to give SRM’s social enterprise efforts a shot in the arm.

He left what he describes as a great job with a Fortune 100 company to join SRM. “I am having so much fun, making a lot less money but making a lot more difference in the world.”

With Mission Catering now profitable, there are numerous other social enterprise businesses in the works, and Anderson says it is SRM’s goal for its social enterprises, operating under SRM’s corporate arm, Mission Enterprises, to soon be SRM’s largest donor.

Anderson says there are two primary outcomes of creating businesses to employ the people who graduate from SRM’s addiction recovery programs. First, SRM is creating sustainable income for itself, and second, it is helping people who are experiencing employment barriers get jobs.

“We are creating jobs which we control,” he said. “These men come to us and they are often homeless, have no driver’s license and often have felony histories. We train them, give them jobs and then help them transition back into the world.“

The culinary program is closely linked to Mission Catering, which is on track to generate $150,000 in revenue this year. It employs three or four men at a time. 

Mission Farms is still arranging financing, with $2 million raised toward a $3.2 million goal. Anderson says they expect to break ground on a commercial greenhouse in Spring 2015. He forecasts $1.2 million in annual revenue from Mission Farms. 

Another business, Mission Manufacturing, will begin producing household items soon out of recycled wine bottles. Anderson says they already have a national retail partner interested. He expects annual revenues of $200,000 from Mission Manufacturing.

Finally, Mission Inn is a 12-unit motel that Springs Rescue Mission is converting to a for-profit sober house, with annual revenues of $60,000 anticipated. It will employ one man from the program.

All of these businesses were started to expand on the mission of SRM. Instead of simply giving homeless people a meal and a safe place to sleep, they are providing them with job training, jobs, the pride that comes with a job well done, and the ability to someday make it on their own.

Anderson and Springs Rescue Mission are not alone in building businesses that focus on the greater good. Social enterprises—as they are commonly called—are one of the hottest business sectors in the world. From nonprofits like Springs Rescue Mission to young entrepreneurs starting their first business, the idea that business principles can be leveraged to solve social or environmental problems is all the rage. 

JVA’s Sarah Hidey met Anderson in Nashville and then worked with him when he came to Denver for social enterprise training from JVA Consulting, where Hidey is a senior associate.

“He impressed all of us as someone who not only had winning ideas but was already part of an organization that was completely committed to business as a force for social good,” she says.

“Not only that,” she says, “but you could see instantly that the work they were doing—and wanted to do—had real, right now, life-changing potential.”

Subscribe to RSS

Subscribe to Our Newsletter!

Sign up to receive relevant, timely news about SEA's efforts to grow the sector, advocate for social enterprise, and provide value to our members.

Email format you prefer:


SEA Thanks Its Key Supporters:


Partner Level Supporters