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KPI Summit: Author Rabb says ‘community connectedness’ key to business sustainability

By Taylor Clements
KyForward correspondent

The Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative kicked off its sixth annual Kentucky Summit on Philanthropy Tuesday with a keynote speech by Chris Rabb, author of Invisible Capital: How Unseen Forces Shape Entrepreneurial Opportunity.

Founded in 2008, the Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating and informing private philanthropic investment in Kentucky. The Summit’s focus this year is on social purpose business enterprises – how to develop and sustain a business model with a social purpose.

Chris Rabb

Chris Rabb

A social purpose business is one that promotes human and environmental well-being as its core value. It’s a growing trend in the nonprofit world that creates supporting revenue streams for the nonprofit while often accomplishing a social purpose – employing and training hard-to-employ individuals, for example.

Rabb shared his concept of “invisible capital,” or the valuable assets individuals have besides money that can contribute to their success as social business entrepreneurs.

As the Social Entrepreneur in Residence and an adjunct professor at Temple University’s Fox School of Business in Philadelphia, Rabb is a consultant, teacher, writer, public speaker and professional facilitator, sharing his expertise with businesses and community leaders around the nation.

“Capital is more than just dollars and cents,” Rabb said.

Capital is also the non-financial resources we can share with others, he added. It’s about distributing individual skill sets, networks, knowledge, traits and experiences to benefit not only the organization, but also the community.

According to Rabb, once individuals understand all the ways they can contribute their personal capital, they can begin to build successful a entrepreneurial venture.

“Entrepreneurship is like tofu,” he said, prompting laughter from the audience. “Tofu tastes like whatever it’s cooked in. We can cook entrepreneurship in profit maximization and predatory business practices or we can cook it in shared prosperity. Entrepreneurship is organized commerce with innovation.”

And innovation, he said, is the key. A desirable, feasible and viable business model is innovation.
At the core of social enterprise are the “magic four” components of “community, purpose, innovation and impact,” Rabb said. He added that to run a successful community-centered business, each of these components should factor into how the creators approach the business model.

To help others achieve success, Rabb discussed common elements that most thriving social enterprises have.

He noted five specific predictors of a business’ success, gleaned from national statistics and research: sufficient start up capital, a formal education, industry choice, prior work experience and working in a family-owned company.

“We have to think about capital more broadly,” Rabb said. “We have to have metrics that align themselves with the reality of these intersecting forms of capitalism. We need to think about businesses that are not just profitable, but are truly sustainable.”

To achieve sustainability, Rabb argued that businesses must promote a “rooted community connection.”

“The most expensive things a government pays for are the result of deep disconnectedness in its citizens – crime, poverty, joblessness,” Rabb said.

The Summit continues through today.

You might also be interested in reading:

Durr Foundation, Henry Heuser to receive Commonwealth Award at KPI Summit

Sixth Summit on Philanthropy draws top speakers on social enterprise, innovation

Taylor Clements is a journalism student at the University of Kentucky.

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