Social Enterprise in Action


This week I had the privilege of touring the Marc Center of Mesa . The Marc Center of Mesa  is a private nonprofit that provides educational, therapeutic, rehabilitation and social services to children and adults with developmental and physical disabilities as well as behavioral health challenges.

The Marc Center is a thriving, creative and innovative nonprofit that is thinking strategically about how to achieve its mission through both nonprofit and for-profit ventures that provide vocational opportunities for its clients.  The Marc Center is providing vocational opportunities in the areas of food service, packaging services, mailing, filing, and other low tech vocations. During my visit, I had a delicious lunch at a Banner Health facility where a Marc Center of Mesa subsidiary is in charge of food service and even provides catering.

Across the country, ventures like these are commonly referred to as double bottom line “social enterprises” because they are making money and fulfilling a social mission at the same time. Other examples of social enterprises operating in Arizona include:

  • Habitat for Humanity’s Discount Home Improvement Center
  • UMOM’s catering company
  • SARRC’s CulinaryWorks
  • Scottsdale Training and Rehabiliation Services (STARS) food service partnership with Scottsdale Healthcare
  • Borderlinks Travel Seminars
  • Dineh Cooperatives, Inc.’s light manufacturing
  • Tseyi Shopping Center’s property management
  • Muscular Dystrophy Association’s retail notecard sales
  • Native Seeds/SEARCH retail seed and crafts shop
  • Thunderhead Alliance’s bicycle and pedestrian consulting services
  • Yuma Reading Council’s workplace literacy education and training

The social enterprise movement is alive and well in Arizona and growing. We can all help to nurture Arizona’s budding social enterprise movement by remembering to consider social enterprise vendors and service providers when we make our own purchasing and hiring decisions.