Social entrepreneurship is NM’s generational opportunity

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Social entrepreneurs are change makers. They pursue a positive transformation through their company’s mission and then scale their impact through sales and profits.

Social entrepreneurs also understand the value of having resilient communities working to connect across diverse groups. Some call this social capital, which is the concept of creating engaged communities focused on the common good.

New Mexico encompasses many of these characteristics, which is why social entrepreneurship and New Mexico complement each other.

New Mexico can be known as a place where social entrepreneurs start, develop and thrive.

While it takes all generations, millennials lead the way. In a Korn Ferry study, 63% of millennials said the primary purpose of any business should be to make society better. The Business Roundtable, an organization of the largest US companies, has agreed on a declaration that shifts the company’s purpose from maximizing shareholder value to increasing stakeholder value.

Stakeholders include communities, team members, and customers. Believe it or not, stakeholder value is a modern take on Adam Smith, who advocated taking society as a whole into account when making business decisions.

A 2018 study by the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research found that our population growth is significantly higher in the age groups 65 to 74 instead of 25 to 34. The latest US census confirmed the continuing trend of low growth among younger people in New Mexico. Younger generations would love to stay in New Mexico, but limited job opportunities prevent them from doing so. A 2020 study by MINT Boomerang found that more than half of the 191 MINT graduates were interested or very interested in staying in New Mexico or returning to New Mexico.

Social entrepreneurship is a viable way to reverse the migration of younger New Mexicans by creating well-paying jobs and more meaningful opportunities to use their talent locally. This can also help diversify the new Mexican economy.

About a year ago, the New Mexico Legislature passed and Governor Lujan Grisham signed the opportunity for companies to become a Benefit Corporation. Benefit Corporations offer the governance model to pursue profit and ecological or social purposes. The University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management leads several initiatives to encourage and support more businesses to become Benefit Corporations. University support is essential to make social entrepreneurship a reality.

Two local examples of Benefit Corps with environmental missions in Santa Fe are Positive Energy Solar and B.Public Prefab. Positive Energy Solar advises on solar energy and installs systems for households and companies. B.Public offers a construction system to reduce our carbon footprint while maximizing comfort and energy efficiency. There are other examples, but we need more.

And that’s the point. New Mexico can be a place where social entrepreneurs can build their business and make a positive impact locally and beyond our borders. We need to focus on the early development of entrepreneurs so that they can gain momentum with a leadership team. We also need investor development to support early-stage and growth-stage social entrepreneurs.

Our community will benefit our talented younger generations by creating jobs, and our older generations will appreciate that their children can stay here and thrive in our community. Equally important is that social entrepreneurship is geared towards giving back, building social capital and serving the common good. Every aspect goes well with the culture of New Mexico.

Jon Mertz is the founder of the Santa Fe Innovates Business Accelerator.

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