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Seattle opens a town square for social enterprise community | 

Seattle creates a new physical space for the social enterprise movement.

Hub Seattle members, from left, Jacob Colker, Lindsey Engh, Kimo Jordan, Brian Howe

Three of the area’s leading organizations at the forefront of this movement — Hub Seattle, Social Venture Partners and the Bainbridge Graduate Institute — on Friday celebrated the grand opening of their new conjoined and co-working space known as the Center for Impact and Innovation.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and other notables were there to mark this milestone, tour the facility, party and eat ‘sustainable appetizers’ – all of it aimed at fostering this phenomenon dubbed social enterprise.

“Yeah, nobody really knows exactly what that means,” chuckled Brian Howe, CEO and co-founder of Hub Seattle.

Social enterprise, that is. Not the sustainable appetizers.

I first met and wrote a post about Howe and his colleagues more than a year ago when the idea for this place was still taking shape. The physical manifestation of that idea is today a renovated timber-brick-and-steel 27,000-square-foot reality in the old Masins Furniture Building – a historic Pioneer Square building shaped somehat like the triangular prow of a ship.

It’s a beautiful space.

But exactly what the new Center for Impact and Innovation is intended to provide a home for — social enterprise — appears to be still an emerging, somewhat vague concept. Which is why proponents say they need a place.

“That’s one of the reasons for Hub Seattle, to have a dialogue and figure out what it is,” said Shaula Massena, one of Howe’s colleagues. “This is already happening, the idea of getting business back to including non-financial goals. But it’s still nascent. We need to come together as a community.”

“The primary idea is to foster entrepreneurship that is about delivering values rather than just creating some product to drive profits,” Jacob Colker, COO of Hub Seattle and a co-founder with Howe.

The old distinction of non-profit versus for-profit is no longer sufficient, Colker said, noting that some organizations that are for-profit serve social missions just as some non-profit corporations (think health care) are sometimes more interested in their bottom line than in making the world a better place.

“I’d say we’re in a third phase, in which we’re coming up with new business structures primarily aimed at serving a social mission,” Howe said. Continue reading