Social Enterprises: Served with a Side of Inspiration

 Photo by Inspire BBQ

Photo by Inspire BBQ

A few weekends ago, on a mission to satisfy my craving for some great barbeque, I made the trek over to Inspire BBQ, located in the H Street/Atlas District neighborhood of D.C. Inspire BBQ has long been on my list of places to check out, not only because I am a ridiculous barbeque fanatic, but because of the restaurant’s social mission.

Inspires’ “Inner City Youth Development Work-Force Exchange Initiative” is a federally-funded program that provides DC Public High School students the opportunity to acquire skills in the culinary arts and restuartaurant management through hands-on experience in the kitchen and restaurant office environment. Additionally, Inspire contributes a portion of its revenues to fund a travel abroad program for its inner city student volunteers, providing an opportunity for them to experience international cultures, something that, for many of the students, may not be attainable otherwise.

Inspire is a local example of a fast-growing demographic called ‘social enterprises’. Also referred to as mission-driven businesses, these organizations are fundamentally different from the not-for-profit and charitable organizations of yesterday as they are founded and legally operate as for-profit organizations.

Recently, controversy has bubbled up around how to fund and regulate the practices of social enterprises. One of the hottest debates questions whether or not businesses that could ultimately profit from the social good should receive public funding.

Personally, I have nothing but praise for social entrepreneurs who, unlike many other folks that view social welfare as an obligation, tax write-off or good PR, have prioritized a social mission as a primary benefactor of the revenues their business generates. If the popularity of other social enterprises such as Tom’s Shoes and VisionSpring are any indication, I believe many others agree.

So if you’re ever in D.C., head-on down to H Street for a delicious a pulled pork sandwich served with a side of inspiration.