Thursday, November 6, 2008

Social Entrepreneurship

I attended a presentation on ITN America. It's an example of social entrepreneurship at its best. Social entrepreneurship uses business practices to solve social problems. The founder recognized a need -- transportation for seniors -- and devised a sustainable method of meeting that need. Read on...
ITN America – Independent Transportation Network

ITN CEO Katherine Freund has worked on ITN for the past 18 years. Other cities and areas are adopting her model.

Westport and its surrounding towns are considering starting an ITN in coastal Fairfield County. Connecticut already has two ITNs – Middletown and Enfield.

Key Points
· American households spend 25% of their income on transportation. 91% of people’s trips outside their homes are made in cars, 8% by walking.

· ITN is a local solution to the senior transportation challenge. It’s an example of “social entrepreneurship” – using an entrepreneurial business model to meet a social need.
o ITN started by discovering what the needs were and then designing a solution.

· ITN replicates private vehicle ownership using public and private resources in partnership.

· ITN uses technology (computers and telecommunications) to create an efficient system to use excess capacity in private vehicles;
o sharing rides, dispatched by a central office,
o driven by volunteers using their own cars or fleet cars that were donated,
o passengers pay
o volunteers are reimbursed for gas and maintenance on a per mile basis.
o Rides are available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day for any purpose.
o Riders get a 20% discount for sharing a ride and a 50% discount for reserving the ride 24 hours in advance.
o Scholarships are available on a needs-basis.

· Half the expenses of the organization are funded by fares. The rest comes from membership fees, donations from local businesses and corporations, grants from governments or foundations and an annual fundraiser.
o People can donate cars and get credits that they use to get rides or enable a relative to get a ride. Volunteering works the same way.

· Good for the local economy because it enables seniors to get out and shop, go to medical appointments and socialize (go to restaurants, movies, concerts, worship).

· Costs $125,000 to get launched and pay for the software. (It’s a bit like a franchise.)

· CT may have a $50,000 transportation grant available to help start such an enterprise.

· Connecticut insurance and livery laws have been changed to allow this.
o Drivers must have special license.
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