No one person is responsible . . . it takes a village, or an army at times.

Thank you for the many kind comments, emails and cards about the Carsey Institute Social Innovator of the Year Award that I was fortunate enough to accept on Monday. I truly appreciate it.

The video the University of New Hampshire (UNH) put together for the event is actually a good little piece of history that’s worth watching. In it, you’ll meet Julie Eades and Michael Swack, both ROC USA Board members, as they talk about the early days of resident ownership. The old photos are great! (And, fishermen sweaters were in fashion in the ’80s. Trust me on that if your memory is failing you.)

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Photo courtesy of UNH

Yusi Turell, Executive Director, Center on Social Innovation and Finance at UNH; Mark Huddleston, President, UNH; and Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, were on hand to present Paul with the Carsey Social Innovator of the Year Award on Monday in Durham, N.H.

You’ll also meet 2012 Community Leadership Institute (CLI) participant and ROC leader Bonnie Rose from the Powder House Cooperative. She’s terrific and their community is beautiful. And, I really love the name they chose for their Exeter, New Hampshire, co-op. Power House comes from a small shed (really) used to store gun powder in the early days of the American Revolution. (Maybe it’s the revolutionary in me, but I really like Freedom Hill and New Beginning Cooperatives, too.)

So, while today my alma mater – UNH – recognized me with this award, I can tell you that the entire time I was thinking that it’s not really my award, it’s everyone’s award!

Like in the American Revolution, there is no one person responsible for the liberation of our country. Heck, the Boston Tea Party was a mob scene! A ROC leader in Pine Tree Village, Larry Erickson, who leads history tours in Plymouth, Mass., might know the name of the first person to yell, “Let’s go!” but I certainly don’t. I know the revolution to be a volunteer effort of many! And, thank goodness! I love our country and all of the men and women who serve it for our democratic ideals and safety and security.

We are making a different type of revolution – an economic security revolution where community by community homeowners like you are choosing local ownership and cooperation over foreign and distant ownership and control! (OK, while there are foreign owners of communities it’s a small percentage of communities are owned by foreign investors. I admit to a little literary license here but the parallel was too much fun to pass up!)

Our revolution is the work of many, too – you, your neighbors, your peers in other ROCs, the staffs of TA providers and ROC USA, and countless supporters from lawyers, town officials, lenders, advocates and on and on. So, congratulations ROC leaders and members! Together we’re making a difference and by sticking together over the long haul, we can make a tremendous difference!

Congratulations Social Innovators!

Now that you know you are one, you may be asking, “What is a Social Innovator?”.

In short, the phrase refers to a body of work that is between charity (e.g. a food pantry) and for-profit business (e.g. McDonald’s). It’s where people and organizations are using business disciplines to achieve social, economic and/or environmental goals. I use the phrase Social Ventures personally but it’s all the same thing – building sustainable organizations with the goal of serving a social mission in a deep way over time.

In fact, your ROC is a social venture! You’re using a business approach (owning and managing a MHC) not to maximize profits but rather create an affordable and good quality community for yourself and future generations. To accomplish that, you and we need to operate sustainably – not to reap profits – but with enough income to sustain ourselves and our shared mission. If you want to read more about social innovation, let me know, and I’ll write more about the work of others in this field. It’s a field that gives me great optimism that the complex problems we face as a country and international community can be solved.

Until then, let’s celebrate our successes. ROC on! Paul

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