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Doctoral Project Abstract

The Barnabas Effect: Starting a Benefit Corporation to Renew Your Community

Lisa Fournier

We each are in the process of leaving a mark on society as we live out our lives. The choices made today pass into the future and impact tomorrow's generations. Those choices make a difference that will either transform and strengthen-or tear apart-the communities we live in. One way to make a meaningful difference is to become an entrepreneur and start a business. However, the traditional business landscape continues to emerge with new forms of funding, expectations of ethical governance, and collaborative leadership. Further, with urbanization on the rise, local and regional governments find themselves struggling as they face significant budget cuts for services such as healthcare, education, and law enforcement that will impact the community in which we live.

It is in this type of environment that an entrepreneur can work with other organizations to create a "Barnabas Effect" that transforms communities. A "Barnabas Effect" creates an inclusive and cooperative trusted environment to empower a variety of organizations, people, and groups in a values-based learning environment. However, it takes a unique business enterprise to manifest the "Barnabas Effect," and, until recently, this type of social enterprise was constrained by an outdated legal framework. In essence, a social entrepreneur had a choice of forming either a for-profit or non-profit company. This is changing as states legislate a new type of entity structure-the benefit corporation.

The benefit corporation is a hybrid entity structure that has a dual responsibility to make a profit and do good in order to satisfy its mission of giving back to the community. Responsible leaders work with other private and public stakeholders to make a difference and transform the status quo in their communities. This type of company functions as the "glue" to help people facilitate new knowledge and catalyze ideas and innovations for changing times. Benefit corporations and their stakeholders serve as a role model to transform communities and regions, ultimately, leaving a legacy for a sustainable societal impact.

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