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Yelp Better: Local Search App To Find Retail Social Enterprises

The new "Social Impact" app ups your game as ethical consumer, helping find local businesses that fit your values.

These days a finger tap on a mobile device yields reviews of everything from a five-star restaurant to a grungy hole-in-the-wall gem. Foodies depend on contextualized local search to guide their chow hound adventures, and a new mobile application aims to become a Yelp for the socially-minded.

Social Impact” is a free app that utilizes the iPhone’s GPS system to display the closest retail social enterprises—including restaurants, coffee shops, and craft stores. The developers, Rolfe Larson Associates, have added nearly 700 businesses to the app's database so far—each include serving the common good as part of their mission. The developers are eager for users to suggest more socially progressive businesses to grow the network.

“A social venture is a business that uses commercial means to accomplish a social purpose." explains Social Impact founder, Rolfe Larson. "Our approach is to list those ventures that meet the criteria of leading associations, such as Social Enterprise Alliance, Green Restaurant Association, and B Corporation.”

The app puts at your fingertips opportunities for conscientious community spending well beyond just the local fair trade coffee shop. A search for restaurants in Los Angeles results in listings for Homeboy Bakery and Homegirl Cafe, both part of Homeboy Industries, a non-profit organization that helps at-risk and gang-involved youth gain emlpoyable skills. Other listings have long-term fair trade relationships with artisans in developing countries. Other businesses actively compost and practice environmental responsibility in-store. Another may offer literacy programs to the community. The app also has a “Shop Online” option for web-based purchase of products and services.

"We created Social Impact to help socially-minded customers find the businesses that create the change they want to see in the world," says Larson. "An opportunity to expand 'social good' exists if we can put information about these businesses at their fingertips when they want it. Smart phones are the perfect vehicle for doing that."

Image (cc) flickr user Ed Yourdon

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