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Social Capitalists: Rubicon Programs Inc.

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
Social Capitalist 2008 Winner

Rubicon Programs Inc.

Rick Aubry, president
Richmond, California
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People walk through Rubicon's doors for many reasons. Maybe they need a job or a place to live. Maybe they are ready to do their part to end their homelessness, overcome an addiction or recover from a mental illness. Whatever the reason, they directly face some of society's toughest problems. Since 1973, over 40,000 people have met the challenge, and have won against all odds to take charge of their own lives and become self-sufficient. At the same time, Rubicon has become a resourceful and self-sustaining organization, funding well over half of a $17 million dollar budget from revenues generated by its own successful enterprises. Rubicon teaches self-reliance and personal responsibility from the inside out, transforming lives by building profitable businesses and jobs through determined and skilled entrepreneurship.

We’re proud to have been recognized as a leader in social entrepreneurship by Fast Company, the Schwab Foundation, Time and Fortune magazines and others. But what truly inspires us is the courage, determination and hard work of the thousands of men and women we’ve been privileged to support over the years. At Rubicon, shattered lives become productive, families break out of the cycle of poverty, and neglected neighborhoods begin to reverse their downward spiral.

Rubicon Landscape Services and Rubicon Bakery grew out of the imperative to create jobs and training for participants. Both have grown into multimillion-dollar enterprises.

But Rubicon is not relying on its past successes or press releases as it contemplates its future. We have conducted an exhaustive strategic planning process and concluded that for social enterprise to have a significant impact on poverty in America, it must reach a much greater scale and national prominence then anyone has to date created. The "brutal truth" that Rubicon has committed to undertake is that the current scale and impact of social enteprise in the U.S., even of a field leader such as Rubicon, must be increased exponentially.

For the next two years a small start up team lead by Rick Aubry, Rubicon's president, will focus on finding a new social enterprise model. Recognition of the field’s challenges by Rubicon and its willingness to so dramatically commit resources to push on the question of scale, underscores that it remains a step ahead of most in the field. Countless nonprofits are now developing a variety of social enterprise approaches; almost all of these are small-scale, with limited social and geographic impact, and may prove to be distractions to the core missions of the organizations. Rubicon's new project, aimed at testing the potential for and impact of significantly scaled national social enterprise, will potentially re-define what the goals and aspirations should be for social enterprise.

In addition to its core lending activities, Root Capital addresses the critical need for basic business training and financial education among grassroots businesses in its target regions. This financial education program complements and deepens the impact of Root Capital's core lending activities by equipping leaders of farmer and artisan cooperatives with financial and managerial skills to build their businesses and work effectively with suppliers, clients, and commercial financial institutions. Launched in Mexico and Central America in 2006, the financial education program will be replicated in South America and Africa beginning in 2008.