We need to understand how the future we are all so busy imagining and  designing will be made possible in an era of reduced public spending on the very projects and infrastructures that are so desperately needed. For  long time it has been suspected that its can’t only be done with donor funds and the capital constraints on participation organizations that have no track records or legal standing, nor tangible assets make it impossible to raise conventional fiance; This new hybrid model could pave the way for new ventures in social and private cooperation. We have to be able to think or imagine something before it can become real, many of us are adept at thinking up new tangible designs for space, but often lack the skills to think up new ways of organizing, financing and managing the change. This article from Stanford Social Innovation Revue by Allen R. Bromberger points a way ahead:


In the ever-evolving landscape of social entrepreneurship, a groundbreaking approach has emerged, pushing the boundaries of conventional models. The hybrid model, which traditionally combined nonprofit and for-profit entities, has undergone a transformation, giving rise to a novel concept – the contract hybrid.

The traditional challenge faced by social entrepreneurs stems from the lack of a recognized legal entity that seamlessly accommodates tax-deductible charitable contributions, market-rate equity investments, and philanthropic loans. This limitation forces social entrepreneurs to navigate a binary choice between nonprofit and for-profit structures, often compromising their social vision and restricting operational and financial flexibility.

Enterprising innovators, however, have redefined the hybrid model, moving beyond the conventional boundaries. Unlike the historical hybrids, crafted by either nonprofits or for-profits to fulfill specific objectives, contemporary social entrepreneurs are constructing intricate contract hybrids from inception. These entities employ contracts as the linchpin, intricately binding nonprofit and for-profit organizations into a unified structure.

Termed as contract hybrids, these entities represent a departure from the conventional wisdom that separates charitable and business endeavors due to regulatory distinctions. The longstanding notion, rooted in historical accident and Puritanical beliefs, dictates a strict separation between missions and profit-seeking activities.

The legal complexity inherent in combining charitable goals and business objectives has given rise to various stretched models like B corporations, benefit corporations, and low-profit limited liability companies (L3C). While these models strive to bridge the gap between profit and purpose, they operate firmly within the for-profit sphere, falling short of tax-exempt status.

In contrast, the contract hybrid disrupts the status quo by challenging the fundamental dichotomy between business and charity. Unlike the familiar parent-subsidiary or one-off arrangements, the contract hybrid relies on contracts and agreements to unite independent nonprofit and for-profit entities into a flexible structure. While legally distinct, these entities function collaboratively, allowing for a broad spectrum of activities and synergies that a single legal entity might struggle to achieve.

The uniqueness of contract hybrids lies in their ability to coordinate the goals, objectives, and strategies of both the nonprofit and business entities. This coordination, facilitated by a network of contracts, enables a symbiotic relationship that serves mutual interests over the long term. It goes beyond the limitations of other models, allowing each organization to pursue its activities within legal, financial, and regulatory frameworks without being encumbered by the constraints of the other party.

A compelling example of a contract hybrid in action is the Appalachian Economic Development Corporation (AEDC). Focused on aiding the chronically unemployed in Appalachia, AEDC partnered with the for-profit North American Catalog Company to market and sell local products through mail-order catalogs. The intricately negotiated agreement covers product selection, marketing, and distribution, with North American Catalog providing low-interest loans to residents. This contract hybrid has not only generated substantial revenues but has also injected millions into the local economy, creating jobs and enhancing the tax base.

Six foundational principles govern the creation of contract hybrids. First and foremost, legal independence between the nonprofit and business entities is crucial, with separate boards ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations. The entities are then interconnected through a web of contractual agreements negotiated at arm’s length to prevent conflicts of interest. Importantly, fair value exchange is emphasized, ensuring that nonprofits receive equitable compensation for the use of their assets by for-profit counterparts.

As the social entrepreneurship landscape continues to evolve, contract hybrids stand out as a dynamic and innovative solution, challenging the entrenched norms and providing a flexible framework for the pursuit of both social and economic objectives. In an era where collaboration is key, contract hybrids offer a promising avenue for social entrepreneurs to navigate the intricate intersection of mission and profit.

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