Lauren Abendschein

NESsT ? Teaching NGOs to Serve the Poor Sustainably

nesstIt’s a classic non-profit problem: organizations find themselves bowing to the needs of their funders rather than their constituents. And of course, there is never enough funding. NESsT is taking an innovative and holistic approach that helps nonprofits increase their long-term viability and independence by generating some of their own resources through social enterprise.

In some ways NESsT is similar to Unitus–another Social Capitalist Awards favorite (NESsT was a finalist in 2006). Using a philanthropic investment fund NESsT provides financial and capacity-building support to a select portfolio of social enterprises owned and operated by civil society organizations in Central Europe and Latin America. NESsT works to develop techniques to generate revenues that diversify the financing base and further the mission of the parent nonprofit organization.Reaching beyond one-on-one relationships with nonprofits, NESsT has worked to strengthen the field of social enterprise through forums, workshops, trainings, internships, and publishing. They have also consulted with development organizations worldwide.

From this solid record of supporting non-profits, NESsT has a new venture in the works: an online marketplace to sell good produced by social enterprises to growing crowds of compassionate consumers. Though the site is still under development, the model is an interesting one. For consumers who want to shop with their conscience but still want a product, this offers a good alternative to sites like Changing the Present. More importantly, if done well it could educate people about how to support more sustainable development efforts.