The "Future" of Nonprofit Social Enterprise?
The recent finding that 4 out of 5 of ZeroDivide’s Community Enterprise grantees turned a profit this year – with the 5th poised to do so – has been generating a lot of interest. To get a fuller picture of what this success looks like in practice, our team recently visited one of these grantees, San Diego Futures Foundation (SDFF).
Based in San Diego's City Heights neighborhood, SDFF is a nonprofit that provides access to computers and bilingual computer training for youth and adults (Spanish, English). They also run four community enterprises with job training components - DiverseCity Tech, Elearn2earn, Electronics Recycling, a computer store - and they support a bilingual computer support hotline.
Our visit included a tour of their two facilities. The first one houses SDFF's Electronics Recycling program, Elearn2earn, and DiverseCity Tech. SDFF is a Microsoft-registered refurbisher and has refurbished over 27,000 used computers and placed them in the hands of San Diego residents. The recycling arm of the business collects and safely disposes of over 1 ton of electronic waste per year.
For the Elearn2earn program, SDFF provides state of the art training rooms that give students access to the latest computer technology as they work toward their Microsoft certification. “We try our best to make sure that our students work on the same platforms in the classroom that they’ll see in the field. That way they’ll be well prepared for whatever is thrown at them,” said Danny Romero, Training and Employment Manager.
Run by 6 young people, the DiverseCity Tech (D-Tech) program offers high quality, low-cost services in web development, online security, and video editing. These offerings help local businesses expand their customer base and operate more efficiently. All of D-Tech’s current employees were trained at SDFF.
The bilingual hotline for computer support is a new addition to SDFF’s services. Staff members were providing so much “unofficial” technical support - especially in Spanish - that they decided to make this service an explicit part of the work. “It’s another way that we try to support our communities’ knowledge about technology and how it functions,” said Jeff Hancock, Executive Director of SDFF.
The highlight of the tour was SDFF’s new computer store. Here they will sell new computers and software at greatly reduced prices. Staff will also give classes that demonstrate new ways to protect personal data online, which is something they are often asked about. The store is staffed by former SDFF students.
Does San Diego hold the future for nonprofit social enterprise? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain - the future certainly looks bright at the San Diego Futures Foundation.