New website promotes sustainable businesses

LEG UP: ASU Professor Vanna Gonzales recently started a website geared toward helping aspiring entrepreneurs. (Photo by Rosie Gochnour)

A new website started by a professor in the School of Social Transformation aims to help students and community members start socially responsible businesses.

Socialeconomyaz.org, a project from professor Vanna Gonzales launched Sept. 22.

“The site serves many objectives, but it’s primarily a catalyst for promoting ideas,” Gonzales said.

The site includes a forum for people who want to become more involved in sustainable business practices, Gonzales said.

As the site is still in its infancy, the forum is quite sparse but includes questions about starting cooperatives in various locations.

Socialeconomyaz.org is designed to provide motivation for students and community members to begin different cooperatives such as community supported agriculture and fair trade groups.

The site also works to help students and faculty develop their interests in the social economy area.

“Faculty members have begun creating curriculums relating to social economy,” Gonzales said.

One example of these curriculums is a course Gonzales teaches every spring, JUS 487/591.

This year, the class will focus on two projects: a CSA that gives work to refugee farmers as part of the International Rescue Committee and a recycling project with Arcosanti, an urban laboratory in northern Arizona. In the past, the class has worked on several different projects relating to social justice, Gonzales said.

Students who seek to build their own socially responsible businesses or pursue research opportunities can also receive help from the site.

ASU alumna Jamie Roberts launched her nonprofit group Unchained to help victims of human trafficking using help from Gonzales and the resources on socialeconomyaz.org.

“We didn’t really know who to go to for the legal issues involved with starting a 501c3, so the website really helped with the technical side,” Roberts said.

Roberts officially launched her nonprofit organization in late September. It focuses on educating people from many different groups about sex trafficking in the United States.

Another company that has received help from the website is Las Otras Hermanas, a fair trade clothing line that benefits women in a Mexican town.

“We helped both companies locate funding, deal with legal and tax issues and find lawyers who would work pro bono,” Gonzales said.

Socialeconomyaz.org also contains information about support networks and funding opportunities.

Justice studies graduate student Vivian Figueroa was in Gonzales’ class last semester and helped develop the website. She now works as a research assistant for Gonzales and plans to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector after graduating in December.

“I’m from Yuma, and there are a lot of migrant workers there,” Figueroa said. “I want to start an agricultural nonprofit to help them.”

 

Reach the reporter at julia.shumway@asu.edu

 

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