One of the newest BYU organizations to become involved with both domestic and international development is the Center for Economic Self-Reliance, founded in 2003. Housed in and sponsored by the Marriott School, the center works with students from all disciplines through research opportunities, internships, fields studies, a yearly conference, and many other programs. We work to connect students in academically rigorous opportunities with qualified practitioners or researchers. Building on its historical roots in microcredit, the center has had two primary initiatives:
1. The MicroFranchise Development Initiative is focused on emerging economies and helping microbusinesses in those economies to have higher success rates and stronger growth. Rather than just providing a loan, like microcredit does, microfranchising provides a turnkey, mentored, business-in-a-box for a new microbusiness owner.
2. The Single Mom Initiative is focused on how best to help working-poor, single mothers in Utah to receive the education they need to earn viable incomes for their family and become economically self-reliant. Most recently, the initiative finished a multi-month survey on Utah single mothers.
The center’s increased involvement in development and other social sectors, both corporate (corporate social responsibility) and social ventures (nonprofits, government entities, and businesses), provides a unique framework. The latter is a newer concept used to look at the ways more innovative and entrepreneurial organizations working on social issues are set up to enhance their social impact. Sometimes this field is called social entrepreneurship, social business, or creative capitalism. Examples of widely recognized social ventures include the Grameen Bank (a for-profit organization owned by its borrowers) and Habitat for Humanity (a more traditional nonprofit organization).
Social Ventures are organizations that have a social mission at their core and operate in very innovative, entrepreneurial ways.