Welfare to Microenterprise: A Community-Based Approach to Sustainable Enterprise
Anthony E. Smith
The redesign of the public welfare system with the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 and the dramatic change in the ground rules have ushered in an era of uncertainty for individuals on public assistance as well as state welfare agencies. In many communities, particularly rural areas such as the Appalachian region, job opportunities may be relatively scarce or low-paying. The challenge for job creation thus falls increasingly on creating entrepreneurial opportunities. Recent studies at the national, regional, and state levels confirm the challenges of job creation for individual transitioning from welfare to self-employment, particularly in rural communities ( Boshara et al. 1997; Ryan McGinn 1997; Taylor 1997). This case study describes a community-based approach to building social, economic, and community assets to enable individuals to transition from welfare to self-employment. The study is organized into three sections: (1) developing a community-based approach to sustainable enterprise, (2) building a statewide partnership for changing state welfare policies, and (3) establishing an asset-building approach for enabling welfare 1 individuals to transition to self-employment.
The catalyst and coordinator for this project was the Lightstone Community Development Corporation (LCDC), formed in 1994 as an affiliate of the Lightstone Foundation Inc. ( LFI), a nonprofit corporation headquartered in Pendleton County, in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. LCDC operates a