Next Talk: What Should the Law of Social Enterprises Be?


Building off of our last UnSectored Talk with DC Net Impact, we are continuing the discussion on social enterprise with this month’s co-host, the American University Washington College of Law. This month, we are moving beyond a general discussion of what social enterprise is to a discussion of what the laws surrounding the industry should be. We’ll focus specifically on the recent laws of this region around social enterprise. The Talk will be on Tuesday, January 29th at 6:30 pm at PunchRock. Learn more and sign up.

Here’s some more information on the Talk from American University Associate Professor of Law and all around good guy, Ben Leff:

Among legislators, there has been a lot of interest lately in creating new legal structures to accommodate or foster “social enterprises” (organizations that attempt to blur the line between the for-profit and the not-for-profit sectors).  One such legal structure is the “benefit corporation.”  Maryland enacted the first “benefit corporation” statute in 2010 and DC just enacted the most recent statute last month.  The benefit corporation laws create one possible legal structure for social enterprises by simultaneously “deregulating” and “regulating.”

The statutes “deregulate” by increasing the autonomy of social entrepreneurs because they (1) free benefit corporations from the (perceived) legal requirement that a business corporation maximize profits and (2) free benefit corporations from the laws that constrain non-profit organizations.  But they also (potentially) “regulate” by constraining the autonomy of social entrepreneurs because they create new accountability mechanisms that may or may not be enforceable by stakeholders or the government.  It is very unclear what the current statutes actually do in these areas.  But it is also unclear whether the “deregulatory” or the “regulatory” aspect of the laws is the more important one, and what the best mix of the two would be.

We hope you’ll join us and add your thoughts! Don’t forget to RSVP!

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