EDA funds Voinovich School to show businesses how to do well by doing good

Daniel Kington
November 21, 2017

Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs has received $70,000 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to measure the impact of social enterprises and inform regional planning for local economic resiliency and prosperity across 10 counties in Ohio and West Virginia. Ohio University will invest an additional $70,000 in the project as match funding.

The study, entitled “Social Return on Investment Methodology Development and Feasibility Study for Rural Appalachia,” is complementary to the Voinovich School’s Social Enterprise Ecosystem (SEE) project, funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission, which provides assistance and capital access support to the social enterprise sector.

The social return on investment method at the center of the study expands traditional business success metrics – such as the number of jobs created and the amount of investment – to measure impacts on education, health, wellness and the environment. The study will allow the School to help social enterprises better allocate resources internally and illustrate their impact to donors externally.

“I’m delighted that the EDA is supporting our pilot work in social return on investment,” said Faith Knutsen, director of social innovation and entrepreneurship at the Voinovich School. “Our team is eager to engage further with important regional partners as we help social entrepreneurs grow, impact their communities, and improve the region’s economy.”

The Voinovich School is proud to spearhead work in the social enterprise sector with both the new EDA funding and the one-year SEE pilot. With its key partners, the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation, and Rural Action, the social enterprise team provides regional support in social enterprise development, connects clients to philanthropic and social investment opportunities and enables the measurement of social impact. 

The EDA’s support recognizes the importance of social enterprises in regional development, indicated SEE Technical Director John Glazer.

“Both entrepreneurs and investors share an interest in developing local economies while also addressing long-standing social and environmental challenges in the region,” said Glazer. “The social return on investment method enables us to address their shared interest in measuring impact and accounting for both financial and social returns on investment.”

The EDA awarded grants to 35 entities in 16 states as part of its 2017 Assistance to Coal Communities initiative, which funds local efforts in communities and regions severely impacted by the declining use of coal and supports activities and programs that promote economic diversification, job creation, capital investment, workforce development and re-employment opportunities.