The roots of RI social venture philanthropy
Many Rhode Islanders today know Social Enterprise Greenhouse (SEG)
as the center of Rhode Island’s network of “do well do good” businesses. SEG’s goal is to create more successful, sustainable social enterprises in Rhode Island.
SEG traces its roots to Partners for Social Investment (PSI), a group of local entrepreneurs and philanthropists who joined with the Rhode Island Foundation in 2000 to test the emerging field of social venture philanthropy. An initial group of partners – Lorne Adrain, Heather Crosby, Meredith Curren, Christopher Doscher, Dave Mixer, Cindy Reed, Elizabeth Riley, Peter Sullivan, Bob Van Degna, Anthony Victoria, and Andy Wallerstein – each contributed $5,000 to a pooled fund. The Foundation contributed $10,000 and provided back-office support.
Within a few years, PSI chose to affiliate with Social Venture Partners International and changed its name to Social Venture Partners Rhode Island (SVPRI). The partners worked closely with several local nonprofits that were developing for-profit, mission-aligned businesses to diversify their funding streams, providing recoverable grants from the pooled fund, business advice, and mentorship. Among the ventures they worked with were Amos House and Youth In Action.
Today, SVPRI has become Social Enterprise Greenhouse (SEG) and boasts a portfolio of more than 150 impact ventures which are serving 250,000 clients. Its network of 130 partners and mentors has provided more than 3,000 pro-bono hours of technical assistance and support. Of the 42 ventures that have graduated from the SEG accelerator, 33 are still in operation, representing 200 jobs. And the model of social venture philanthropy has exploded since 2000.
We consider our early role with SEG a smart investment in growing philanthropy in Rhode Island.