The Community-Based Social Impact Marketplace

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the importance of small businesses across America, which employ nearly half of our workforce nationwide. Shopping local is one of the best things you can do for your community, as local dollars return over three times as much money to the community as national retailers do.

At Dwell with Dignity, we envision a future where localism could make an even greater impact that transcends economic dynamics. A future where social-minded small businesses could partner with each other to create and excel change. A future where local shoppers could feel like they were making a difference with every purchase.

This future is much closer than you may think, as it’s manifesting in the form of the community-based social impact marketplace. While there are several examples of internet-based social impact marketplaces, this is a novel concept in the world of brick and mortar.

A community-based social impact marketplace is exactly what it sounds like: it’s an actual, physical space where people can shop while making a social impact. Local, mission-oriented businesses rent space within the marketplace to sell their goods and services. They may differ in the causes they support, but what they all have in common is a passion for serving the local community.

For example, a social impact marketplace might be home to a coffee shop that gives a portion of all proceeds to the local youth shelter. Or, it might be home to a clothing boutique that donates professional attire to formerly homeless people seeking work. Even still, it may house businesses that hire underserved youth or those with former justice involvement. The social impact marketplace is an ideal home for any local businesses with a mind for entrepreneurship and a heart for social impact.

Social impact marketplaces present a new way of thinking about business. While many of us think of business and community work as two separate concepts that perhaps converge only in areas like volunteerism and philanthropy, they can actually work quite well in partnership. Social impact marketplaces provide an avenue for business and community to support and uplift one another.

This unique way of doing business is what some might call social-minded capitalism. The concept of social-minded capitalism goes far beyond making charitable donations; it’s a complete paradigm shift, where business isn’t all about profit and social impact doesn’t have to be not-for-profit. Instead, the two work in unison to benefit each other in profound and remarkable ways.

So, what might a social impact marketplace look like? Picture a building in the center of town. Imagine all your favorite local businesses renting space there, with each doing their part to give back to the local community. You walk in to grab a coffee from your favorite ethically sourced coffee shop and end up getting lost in a charming used bookstore. You enjoy a lazy afternoon of drinking lattes, reading, and chatting with friendly local folks who share your passion for community. At the end of the day, you feel not only relaxed, but good about the money you spent and its potential to affect change.

Coming soon from your friends at Dwell with Dignity is the next phase of our own social impact in the Dallas community. After years of helping families transition from trauma to a new home and new way forward in life, and after our recent ventures into making over community spaces for our nonprofit partners, we are reimagining the retail pop-up that made us locally famous. Thrift Studio, where Dallas designers and our charitable benefactors come together, is set to become a permanent retail anchor to the first community-based social impact marketplace of its kind in the nation.

Once again, Dallas will be the heart of innovation, and as we usually do in Texas, we’re going big. In the coming weeks, we invite you to join us on the next phase of our journey as one of our city’s favorite nonprofits, as we design the ultimate local retail experience, one that makes a real difference with real people, right here.

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