Cross-Disciplinary Collaborations are the Key to Ending Homelessness

homelessness1We need more cross-disciplinary collaborations

Imagine two restaurants, A and B, located next to each other and with similar price ranges and service quality. One employs formerly homeless people and ex-convicts while the other restaurant’s employees have homes and clean criminal records. What would your first preference be? When we asked a few citizens, we got mixed answers and different justifications as to why they would pick one over the other. To an extent, it has to do with the stigma attached to these groups.

President Obama’s comprehensive strategy, Opening Doors, has reported progressive results in its two years of operations and plans to put an end to homelessness amongst veterans by 2015; and chronic homelessness among families, children and youth by 2020. Between 2010 and 2012, veteran homelessness has decreased by 18 percent but student homelessness has reached a record high (over 1 million). Since January 2011, while there has been a 1.4 percent decrease among homeless individuals, there is a 1.4 percent increase among homeless families.

Do we see an opportunity here?

Social entrepreneurs can step in to redesign new blueprints to fix the conked out system. This field is experiencing growing interest globally and the challenges of social entrepreneurs are slowly starting to be addressed. The number of certified B Corporations has almost doubled from 370 in 2010 to 745 today (149 outside of the U.S.) and 13 states in the United States have already passed Benefit Corporation legislation.

If organizations like Solutions SF take advantage of joining this diverse community of changemakers from over 25 countries by becoming a certified B Corporation, potential investors and clients could see them as more trustworthy; it can generate press, attract talent, foster partnerships and provide legal protection to pursue triple bottom line initiatives.

Many organizations are freed from relying on government funding as we see a rise in impact-driven investing organizations like Bridges Ventures, Acumen Fund and crowdfunding platforms (expected to raise a volume of over $5.1 Billion in 2013)  which ease the process of raising the needed capital to achieve their goals.

In March 2013, a meetup group called SF Homeless Innovation was formed in San Francisco with the motive of drawing in enthusiastic talents of all ages from various occupations to a common space to craft and implement original solutions to end homelessness.

We need to see a multiplication of such cross-disciplinary formations within communities. The efforts of local educational institutions to involve students in homeless projects, commitment from all levels of government and partnerships between private, public and NGOs to erase the stigma and reduce the risk of being homeless could finally put an end to this multifaceted problem.

By Sanyanth Naroth, Luis Enrique Pardo, Jun Liu, Dinara Zhaxynbek  and Osazuwa Osayi. The authors are Master of Social Entrepreneurship candidates at Hult International Business School. 

[image credit: Hanibaael: Flickr cc]

Hult Social Entrepreneurship

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