Harnessing 'Fourth Sector' Maximizes Social Benefit
John Parker believes that the emerging fourth sector hits the “sweet spot” when entrepreneurs work with nonprofits and the government to maximize social benefit rather than financial benefit.
“We’ve got to cultivate leadership and make sure we’re fully utilizing our time, talent and resources,” Parker told the Moore County Partners in Progress board of directors last week. “The assets you have here have to be leveraged and built upon.”
Parker, a Moore County native who is already working on a project in West Southern Pines, then made the board a promise.
“I’m interested in being helpful, having some skin in the game, not just doing this presentation,” he said.
Parker was back in town at the invitation of Pat Corso, executive director of Partners and an advocate of the N.C. Fourth Sector Cluster Initiative.
Launched in January 2010, the Initiative is a collaboration of business, community and economic development leaders convened to accelerate the growth of social enterprise and social innovation, entrepreneurship and green and sustainable businesses — the emerging “fourth sector” — across North Carolina.
“We’re the only state in the nation that is looking at implementing the Initiative on a statewide basis,” Parker said.
The Initiative is partnering with business leadership organizations, academic institutions and representatives from local and state government to develop a regional, cluster-based strategy to promote job growth and advance the emerging fourth sector.
The Initiative’s objective is to accelerate economic growth and job creation while making tangible impacts on pressing community challenges. Specific goals are to:
Establish the fourth sector as an economic development cluster.
Convene and connect stakeholders from local communities and the business, nonprofit, philanthropic and public sectors interested in strengthening the fourth sector.
Raise awareness and understanding about sustainability, social enterprise and innovation, and related economic development strategies.
Encourage and support services and policies that reduce market barriers and create a more conducive environment for fourth sector enterprises.
Successfully advance a public policy agenda that supports the growth of this new sector.
Corso said the Initiative presents the county with “literally a cafeteria of options.” He then noted that an early example of the Initiative in action can be found in the Sandhills Farm to Table Cooperative, which is owned and controlled by farmers, workers and customers.
Parker remembered his first job at the family’s hardware store on Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Southern Pines.
“It kept me out of trouble, gave me more skills than my peers and boosted my confidence,” he said. “That experience has served me well since then.”
Parker earned an undergraduate degree at Wake Forest and a graduate degree at the University of Memphis.
Today, Parker is one of the key players at Good Work, a Raleigh-based nonprofit collaborative with a community development mission to strengthen communities through entrepreneurship that is resilient, culturally appropriate and collaborative.
“It’s my way of giving back to the community while earning a living,” he said.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at email@example.com.
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