Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Economic Innovation taps SIPI leaders for co-learning project to define and advance social enterprise in Michigan’s legacy cities

Media contact: Barbara Fornasiero, EAFocus Communications; 248-260-8466; barbara@eafocus.com

Flint, Mich. — July 11,  2017 — The leaders of Flint-based Social Impact Philanthropy and Investment (SIPI), a platform for change providing business and operational services to social enterprises and nonprofits, as well as implementation and administration of government programs, have been selected to participate in the Michigan State University 2017 project on Social Entrepreneurship in Legacy Cities, offered through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) University Center for Regional Economic Innovation (REI).

Steve Wolbert, CEO and Jason Ball, COO/President, completed a competitive application process for this year’s REI co-learning project, submitting a plan entitled, ‘Defining and Advancing Social Enterprise in Michigan’s Legacy Cities.’ Social enterprise and social entrepreneurship are often used interchangeably; because their work focuses on organizations and not individuals, Ball and Wolbert use the term enterprise. Legacy cities, a special focus of SIPI, are urban cities generally found in the Midwest that have lost at least 20% of their population since peaking in the 1950’s, yet still have a population of 50,000 or more and retain some vibrancy and economic potential. Michigan’s legacy cities include Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, Saginaw and Warren.

In a co-learning project, multiple parties collaborate on research to generate new knowledge, with the findings and recommendations, in this case related to economic development, serving as key resources for economic development practitioners and policymakers in Michigan.

“We are researching case studies of social enterprises in Detroit and Flint along the social enterprise continuum to capture and illustrate our definition,” Ball said. “We are also working with the Michigan Community Ventures Program to evaluate the outcomes of structurally unemployed persons employed in social enterprises versus traditional businesses.”

Ball’s expertise lies in working with visionaries and people passionate about their cause to develop plans, strategies, and the associated documentation that helps ideas come to life. He is an experienced facilitator and consultant, having worked with a wide range of nonprofits, universities, local governments, and state agencies to drive community and economic development projects throughout Michigan.

Prior to joining SIPI, Ball was the Director of Client Services for an economic development consulting firm in Lansing, which allowed him to serve several Flint organizations as a contractor. He holds a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Michigan State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from Grand Valley State University. Ball is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and has completed National Charrette Institute Certification. He is also a member of the Michigan Association of Planning’s government relations committee, and has served as chair since 2014.

After working in outreach and fundraising capacities in the non-profit sector, Wolbert created an opportunity at a large for-profit, Flint-based company to move beyond “checkbook philanthropy” and into a more focused effort to show how corporations can positively influence a community. He saw the impact this model of philanthropy can create by facilitating and implementing community partner-driven projects at a for-profit pace. Born and raised in Flint, Wolbert is a board member of the St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center and the past board president of Genesee County Habitat for Humanity. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Community Relations from Michigan State University and a Master’s degree in Philanthropy and Development from St. Mary’s University (Minnesota).

Ball and Wolbert’s co-learning project will be presented at the Innovate Michigan! Summit on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017 in East Lansing.

About Social Impact Philanthropy and Investment (SIPI)

Flint, Mich.-based Social Impact Philanthropy and Investment (SIPI) was founded as a platform for change in 2015 to transform legacy cities into economic hubs of opportunity for all.  Working with social enterprises and nonprofits, SIPI’s services include operations, human resources, finance, data analysis, fundraising, contract negotiations, strategic planning, training and community development to help build self-sustaining organizations.  SIPI also implements and administers community-focused programs for local, state and federal agencies. Learn more at http://sipi.solutions/.

###