5. BUY LOCAL, BUY WELL

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FRIENDSHIP CAFÉ

For a state desperately searching for ways to boost the local economy, it's a big idea with a nice social payoff: we'll call it buy local, buy well.

Over the last couple of decades, the nation has seen an explosion in its "social enterprise" sector — that's non-profits or businesses with strong social missions that sell landscaping services, graphic design services, or specialty soft drinks to finance good works.

Many, like Amos House's Friendship Café and More Than a Meal Catering program, hire clients to staff the operations.

The state's social enterprise outfits already get some business from Rhode Island's largest companies and government agencies. But Kelly Ramirez, executive director of Social Venture Partners Rhode Island, which represents the sector, is leading a campaign for a much broader local purchasing program.

She says she hopes to announce several partnerships between large Rhode Island companies and social enterprise ventures in time for a November 5 conference at Bryant University.

The effort dovetails with a marketing campaign that will slap the slogan "Buy With Heart" across a web site, T-shirts, and bumper stickers.

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