MEEs are private organizations – usually nonprofit housing entities – whose focus is on change-making that involves developing a sustainable organizational and financing infrastructure for the creation of affordable housing. Through “mission entrepreneurship,” these organizations convert ideas and resources into tangible results in the form of successful housing developments and outcomes, which help influence both economic and policy change.
A year in the making, the study took an in-depth look at 23 MEEs, 12 from the U.S. and 11 from the U.K., finding that both countries produced entities with similar roles and characteristics. The most successful MEEs from both countries were born “right” and grown “right,” meaning that they were grown consciously from the right organizational vision, business model design, value chain linkages, and civic supporters and partners. Unsuccessful MEEs tended to be more unfocused with a less scalable model and over-reliance on a handful of visionaries and partners.
To help examine these characteristics, the study categorized MEEs in the U.S. and U.K. into Neighborhood MEEs and Production MEEs, as well as Small Scale MEEs and Scaled MEEs. In general, Neighborhood MEEs tend to be Small MEEs, and Production MEEs tend to be Scaled MEEs. This is because Neighborhood MEEs derive their value by being in extremely close touch with a place and its people, and Production MEEs derive their value through a value-chain assembly of resources resulting in tangible outcomes, usually housing properties produced or preserved.
In part, the study also identified critical geographic gaps between MEE need and capacity – indicating the urgency to jump-start new MEE formation in those areas that lack the necessary capacity to turn challenges into solutions.
Overall, the study reinforced the need to distinguish MEEs from other nonprofit organizations to help appropriately develop their change-making capabilities for the future. Regarding applications to the global South, the report did not prescribe answers, but rather it raised questions, noting the need to explore profound differences when comparing similarly-focused entities elsewhere.
“The Affordable Housing Institute has produced a long-awaited analysis,” said Conrad Egan, NHC president and CEO. "It tells how and why mission directed entrepreneurial entities focused on producing and preserving affordable homes in the USA and the UK are successful, and how lessons about their powerful progress can illuminate and energize further momentum toward more affordable homes for all.”The study was co-authored by Ray Christman, Atlanta, GA; Gaynor Asquith, Manchester, UK; and David Smith, Boston, MA.
This past fall, the findings of the study were previewed at a World Habitat Day-related event hosted by NHC in partnership with AHI and the Housing Partnership Network. In addition to the co-authors, event panelists included: Tom Bledsoe, Housing Partnership Network; Carol Galante, U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development; Michael Pitchford, Community Preservation and Development Corporation; and Debra Schwartz, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
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The study was partially funded by a grant AHI received from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to promote research and education on the socioeconomics of housing and shelter in urbanizing countries throughout the global south, with emphasis on housing as a catalyst for improving informal communities and non-governmental organizations as enterprises that make visible change.