Post-baccalaureate fellow and KnoxCorps member Elizabeth Cockrell ’12 has spearheaded a unique community initiative that gives new meaning to the word “sustainability.” Aimed at building local sustainable business through alternatively-funded projects, the enterprise’s goal is to foster sustainability in the Galesburg environment, economy and community.
Cockrell proposed the initiative, known as Galesburg S.O.U.P (Sustainable Opportunities Unite People), as part of her KnoxCorps service project. It is one of many projects developed around the country as part of Sunday Soup, a national grassroots movement aimed at starting creative projects through community meals.
“[Sunday Soup] started pretty simple: someone volunteered to make some soup, and everybody who paid could vote for one of the project proposals,” Cockrell said. “The person with the most votes at the end of the night would walk away with all the proceeds from the dinner.”
Although the movement started as a means of supporting artists and their work, Cockrell, like many others, has used this model of community-based funding instead to suit her own community’s needs. In Galesburg’s case, focus is on building local sustainable businesses through the Sustainable Business Center in Western Central Illinois, a “business incubator” designed to give local businesses the resources and services to get on their feet.
“The SBC’s focus is on É rebuilding the economy through growing sustainable businesses,” she said, “and so part of that is fostering this sense of local foods because that could be such a driver of our economy.”
Knowing that sustainability is often seen exclusively as an environmental issue, Cockrell’s project attempts to show that sustainability is a philosophy that clearly benefits more than just the environment. She defines it as “anything that sustains the environment, the economy or the community.”
That being said, she explained that the words “business” and “sustainability” do not preclude people from submitting their project ideas.
“We’re looking for any kind of proposal,” she said. “You don’t have to be in business or be an environmentalist or be a community developer Ñ you can have projects and businesses that do all of those three things at once. It’s definitely a triple bottom line approach to businesses that we’re supporting out there.”
Thirteen proposal applications for Galesburg S.O.U.P. will be reviewed in the next couple of weeks. The top five projects will be chosen to present on Friday, April 19 at a community dinner at en season kitchen (2900 W. Main Street) from 5-7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $22 and include a meal and a chance to vote on the final community project. The proposal that receives the most votes will be given upwards of $2,500 to carry out their project.
As for the future of Galesburg S.O.U.P., Cockrell is not sure what to expect.
“I’m not sure what the SBC’s plans are for holding another soup event. I think it all depends on how this first one goes,” she said. “But I’m really excited to introduce the idea of Sunday Soup to Galesburg.”