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3 initiatives making NextFab look more and more like a social enterprise

NextFab. October 21, 2016 Category: FeatureFeaturedMediumPurpose
It’s getting harder and harder to differentiate what fits into the social enterprise bucket and what doesn’t.

If your business is hiring or, in makerspace NextFab‘s case, helping people build skills and businesses, there’s an argument to be made that it is inherently a social enterprise — all it takes is a conscious effort to make an impact.

For some companies like NextFab, which has been billing itself as a social enterprise at least since it announced its expansion into Wilmington, Delaware late last year, social mission is almost inevitable.

What started as a typical set of community outreach initiatives has gradually evolved into something more robust and ingrained in the company culture.

NextFab is calling it Projects With Purpose, a “code-named initiative” that’s been growing inside the company for about a year, according to founder Dr. Evan Malone.

“It’s been simmering on the backburner for a while,” said Malone, adding that it’s something that grew out of members’ interest in mission-driven work. “These things are happening whether or not we’re pushing.”

The projects range from volunteering with a high school robotics team overseen by Philadelphia Futures to providing supports for social entrepreneurs internally and deploying a series of foreign initiatives in the Middle East.

SeaPerch Robotics Team

Malone himself has been volunteering with SeaPerch, an underwater robotics team composed of high schoolers from a number of public schools across the city, for the past six years. The team is sponsored by the Navy and organized by Philadelphia Futures — Malone and a handful of NextFab volunteers show the students how to actually build the robots.

From our Partners

Furnishing a Future

More on Furnishing a Future to come, but NextFab member, carpenter and custom furniture maker Steve Greenberg‘s nonprofit partners with a number of social service agencies to give reentrants vocational skills training and employment while supplying folks in affordable housing with custom-made furniture. Some of those partners include Ready Willing & Able and the Mayor’s Office of Reintegrative Services (RISE).

Refugee Open Ware (ROW)

Holy cow. This is the big one.

NextFab is part of what Malone calls a “virtual partnership” called Refugee Open Ware (ROW), which seeks to use technology and innovation to alleviate repercussions stemming from the refugee crisis in the Levant. That includes labs and centers that incubate disaster relief hardware, provide youth employment opportunities and provide STEAM education to Syrian nonprofits — such as National Syrian Project for Prosthetic Limbs, which creates prosthetics for as many as 200,000 Syrian amputees victimized by the civil war.

Malone expects the next lab to open in Jordan the first week of November, and a project is in the works to get a tech lab in Turkey, strictly for developing technology and hardware for use by White Helmets in Syria.

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