COMMUNITY VOICES | Mayor RT Rybak proclaims Social Enterprise Week

Never heard of social enterprise?  Well, it’s here and growing.  That’s why RT Rybak has proclaimed this to be Social Enterprise Week in Minneapolis.  Minnesota has sometimes been called the “Land of 10,000 Non-Profits,” so deeply embedded is the culture of compassionate support. It’s not surprising that the Twin Cities is ranked #1 for volunteering.  But there are a few new twists on this story. Many Minnesota nonprofits are functioning as “social enterprises” – and yet they might not identify themselves as one.  It’s a new term for a growing national and international trend. Social enterprises bridge the for-profit and non-profit worlds because they operate with a “double bottom line” — profits and social mission.  They sell products and services, which then generate funds that can be used to address social issues.“Not enough people know about the depth of social enterprise leadership and innovation in our area, many started decades ago,” said Mayor RT Rybak.PPL Industries, for example, was launched 30 years ago.  Instead of being primarily funded by grants or donations, they relied largely on fees generated by providing light assembly for larger businesses.  Their operation provided essential work skills and job training for individuals with multiple barriers to employment.  Following a merger with Rebuild Resources last year, the new $6 million organization has been rebranded as Momentum Enterprises.Why are more nonprofits starting or expanding a social enterprise?  Some say it is because they are experiencing the “new normal”, based on increasing competition for both charitable dollars and government contracts.  To become more self-sustainable, nonprofits are increasingly considering the “earned-income” strategies of social enterprise to support their mission.In 2002, CityKid Java was created to raise funds for a worthy cause: the revitalization of the South Minneapolis community.   Since then, they have grown to become a $2 million business selling coffee through Target, Cub, and Whole Foods as well as businesses and faith-based organizations.  The “profits” are used to fund Urban Ventures.  CityKid Java is undertaking an aggressive growth strategy to use this “business model” to expand and support youth in other states.   Social enterprises are as varied as the communities they serve.  Twin Cities based social enterprises include the Beez Kneez, The Arc Value Village Thrift Stores, DumpTech, Finnegans, Genesys Works and Tasks Unlimited.  Another twist is that more for-profit companies are operating with a double bottom line as well, such as Moss Envy and The Data Bank.The Social Enterprise Week proclamation is one way to raise awareness about the social and economic benefits of social enterprise in our communities.  St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman signed one for St. Continue Reading

MUSIC PREVIEW | Airick Woodhead of Doldrums gears up for the 7th Street Entry

On Wednesday, April 3, Doldrums wlll play at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis. I had the chance to catch up with Airick Woodhead, the man behind the Montreal-based solo project, via e-mail.Errhead, Heir Head, Airick, Erric, Erick, Erik, Heirck, or Eric, which do you prefer?Back with Mum and Dad it’s Airick. On Reality Lite I also go by Milo, Jank, errhead, wren, ervishe… Where do you get most of your sampling material? You don’t really seem to use many externally sourced vocal samples in Lesser Evil but there are a bunch in Re-heckled Slogans…I get the majority of my music from friends of mine. And the Internet. Does Disney fulfil all of your cat-centric dreams? Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Yellow Tree Theatre’s “Circle Mirror Transformation”: A beautiful reflection on theater workshops

It’s true that some people love touchy-feely theater workshops more than actually performing. They engage in creative self-exploration by participating in theater games, improvisational exercises, self-revelatory monologues and other activities. But what if the workshop participants found themselves trapped within a reflection of a reflection? What if they find they don’t want to get out? Anne Baker’s play Circle Mirror Transformation just completed performances at Yellow Tree Theatre in Osseo. I found the script to be incisive and witty with its poetic dialogue. The playwright’s focus is a theater workshop in a small town community center. Through a series of vignettes we see the characters become caught-up in an extraordinary exploration of the boundary between art and life. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Frank Theatre’s “The Way of Water” at the Playwrights’ Center: An emotional roller coaster that’s worth the ride

The Way of Water, which Frank Theatre is presenting at The Playwright’s Center through September 30, is not an easy show to experience. Set in Louisiana in the aftermath of the Golf oil spill, the play depicts the lives of two poor couples who are affected by the environmental ramifications of the spill. Excellently acted by a cast of four, it’s an emotional ride.

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