Social entrepreneurship: NM's generational opportunity - Albuquerque Journal

Social entrepreneurship: NM’s generational opportunity

Jon Mertz

Social entrepreneurs are changemakers. They pursue positive transformation through their company’s mission, and then scale their impact through revenue and profit.

Social entrepreneurs also know the value of robust communities, working to connect across diverse groups. Some call this social capital, which is the concept of creating engaged communities focused on the common good. New Mexico embraces many of these traits, which is why social entrepreneurship and New Mexico are complementary.

New Mexico can be known as a place where social entrepreneurs begin, develop and thrive.

While it takes all generations, millennials are leading the way. In a Korn Ferry study, 63% of millennials stated that a business’s primary purpose should be to improve society. The Business Roundtable, an organization of the largest U.S. corporations, has come around to agree with a statement shifting the purpose of business from maximizing shareholder value to boosting stakeholder value. Stakeholders include communities, team members and customers. Believe it or not, stakeholder value is a modern take from Adam Smith, who advocated for considering the larger society when making business decisions.

A 2018 University of New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research study found that our population growth is significantly higher in the age groups of 65 to 74, rather than 25 to 34. The recent U.S. Census confirmed the continued trend of low growth of younger people in New Mexico. Younger generations would like to stay in New Mexico, but limited employment opportunities prevent them. A 2020 study by STEM Boomerang found that over half of 191 STEM graduates were interested, or very interested, in staying in or returning to New Mexico.

Social entrepreneurship is a viable way to reverse the migration for younger New Mexicans by creating well-paid jobs and more significant opportunities to use their talents locally. This can also help to diversify the New Mexican economy.

About a year ago, the New Mexico legislature passed, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed, the ability for companies to incorporate as a Benefit Corporation. Benefit Corporations provide the governance model to pursue profit and environmental or social causes. The University of New Mexico Anderson School of Management is leading several initiatives to encourage and support more companies becoming Benefit Corporations. Having university support is vital to make social entrepreneurship a reality.

Two local examples of Benefit Corps. with environmental missions are Positive Energy Solar and B.Public Prefab. Positive Energy Solar delivers advice on solar energy, and installs systems for homes and businesses. B.Public offers a construction system to reduce our carbon footprint, while maximizing comfort and low-energy performance. There are other examples, but we need more.

And that’s the point. New Mexico can be a place where social entrepreneurs can build their businesses, and make a positive impact locally and beyond our borders. We need to focus on early entrepreneur development so they can gain traction with a leadership team. We also need investor development to support early and growth-stage social entrepreneurs.

Our community will gain by creating jobs for our talented younger generations, and our older generations will appreciate that their kids can stay here and prosper in our community. Equally important is that social entrepreneurship is designed to give back, build social capital and deliver toward the common good. Each aspect fits well with the culture of New Mexico.

Santa Fe Innovates is a social entrepreneur program and community. The executive’s desk is a guest column providing advice, commentary or information about resources available to the business community in New Mexico. To submit a column for consideration, email


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