Incubating social enterprises to drive hyper-local revitalization in Pittsburgh

This article by the Institute for Competitive Inner Cities (ICIC) is a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based case study on the social enterprise path to community revitalization.

Objective: This case study highlights a new approach to building economic opportunity in distressed urban communities, using a model that brings together and incubates early-stage social enterprises and innovative nonprofits that share a joint commitment to reinvigorating their neighborhood.

Major Participants: New Sun Rising (NSR); the Henry L. Hillman Foundation; the Buhl Foundation; the Pittsburgh Foundation; Neighborhood Allies; various local community development organizations, technical assistance providers and neighborhood stakeholders

To date, NSR has worked with more than 120 social enterprises and community projects in Pittsburgh and surrounding communities. Now, many of these projects are becoming established businesses.

The first Launch Millvale cohort began in Spring 2015 and included 10 food-related ventures. The hyper-local cluster development approach appears to be working already. Growers are targeting products for retail establishments; distributors are aggregating products from local farmers to meet the needs of the local community; and three of the businesses that couldn’t have hired an employee just yet have jointly hired a single employee that works across the three companies on a full time basis. Four of the companies have established a physical presence in Millvale. Collectively, the cohort has raised more than $300,000 in investment and created six new full-time jobs.

Incubation for Launch Hilltop is currently underway and includes 10 social innovation teams focused narrowly on identifying and deploying strategies to activate local communities. The Ignite Northside workshop series is currently underway and NSR has worked with over 20 businesses and community project leaders to identify an appropriate mix of organizations to enter the incubation phase with their partner, the Riverside Center for Innovation. This incubation phase provides more intensive business support and consulting services to serve a total of 75 more well-established entrepreneurs and community project leaders this year.

Given the early success and demand for the MODE programs, NSR is planning to launch the initiative in three additional neighborhoods by September of this year.

See full ICIC case study & photo credit.

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