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Community Spirit

I tried out the phrase Some-Profit Organization (SPO) in last month's column to describe a still-new form of doing business in the U.S. that is essentially a halfway point between a for-profit and a non-profit organization. In the U.K. it is called a Community Interest Company (CIC) and has been formally codified in law there. You'll notice the British moniker stresses the community orientation of this type of business, while my phrase focuses on the financial aspect of it.

That's because in America, money talks. Loudly. The best evidence is the way we describe the basic dissimilarity between for-profit and non-profit businesses: those that make money and those that don't. Every other distinction between them is a detail. An armchair philologist such as myself does not swim against such a tide when trying to make an impression on the English language.

It seems to me that the SPO is just one attempt to moderate the excesses of the ensuing free market capitalism by reining in greed. It assures the corporation's focus on a community's interests by limiting the amount of return investors can earn--the some-profit part--and by locking in their capital contribution so that it continues to serve the community. All the while, the SPO produces enough personal gain to keep the principal investors happy. At least that's the theory.


Bruce D. Collins

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