LIFTING COMMUNITIES OUT of poverty. Ending human rights abuses. Improving financial literacy among the nation’s youth. Unlike most traditional businesses, social ventures have lofty missions — and innovative methods of achieving them.
It can be easy to dismiss big visions as the pipedreams of the idealistic. But these social entrepreneurs, whose companies or organizations are profiled in the slideshow below, are demonstrating that it’s possible to effect change when you tackle society’s problems with the disciplines of the business world.
1.) Operation HOPE
Operation HOPE founder, John Hope Bryant, pictured (center) speaks to a group of Young Global Leaders in New Delhi, India. (Photograph courtesy of Operation HOPE)
Location: Los Angeles
Annual Budget: $15 million
When John Hope Bryant started up Operation HOPE, a nonprofit public benefit organization that, among other things, hosts youth financial literacy programs in inner cities throughout the U.S. and in South Africa, he didn’t know the first thing about running a nonprofit organization.
“I knew how to be a business guy,” says Bryant, who started a number of successful for-profit businesses. However, just after the Los Angeles riots broke out in 1992, Bryant had a realization: “These problems are not about waste — they’re about poverty.” That’s when he dreamed up the idea for Operation HOPE.
Through a range of outreach methods, Operation HOPE has helped educate 290,000 U.S. children. A main goal of the social enterprise, says Bryant, is to present children with positive role models and the information to lift themselves out of their inner-city ghettos. “I want to show kids how to get rich legally,” he says.
The key to his success? Appealing to business leaders. During Operation Hope’s early days, for example, he invited 600 bank executives on a three-hour bus tour through the city’s South Central neighborhood. He presented that community not as hopeless but as a market of underserved individuals who lacked financial education.
By appealing to corporations’ bottom lines, Bryant turned providing aid into a value proposition. As a result, today more than 400 companies have donated funds and resources to Operation Hope’s efforts. “We believe that the public are shareholders, the people we serve are clients and the corporations we work with are investors,” he says.
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