Civekos Pitch

This is the pitch for the TiE Boston ForSE Conference Social Enterprise Pitch Contest where I have been selected to present my Civekos concept.

I will be building out more about Civekos at this end of the Grey Lee Net in the near future.


Organization: Civekos LLC (does not legally exist yet)

Team Members: Grey Lee, bio below. Others TBD.

Executive Summary:

Civekos builds housing for social-service organization personnel throughout the world.

The concept is a combination of residential cooperative, clubhouse, and long-term hostel. The greater Civekos organization serves as a type of community development corporation, harnessing philanthropic and program-related funds to build housing lodges for the partner organizations whose staff would be tenants in the lodges. Civekos essentially provides a brand of high-quality affordable housing to people working in the social enterprise space. The lodges facilitate community among residents, providing a support structure and synergy opportunities to people across different employments. A civekos lodge is a residential college-like facility where people live together efficiently and ecologically positively, to effectively meet their organizations’ common social-service goals.

The term “Civekos” is a combination of “civil” (urban) and “ekos” (home) and connotes a new model for mission-driven micro-communities. Each lodge provides a space for residents who are clearly committed to social service. The exact qualifications may vary from lodge to lodge, based on the partner organizations and conditions of the local community. It would be possible for local and ex-pat residents to live in the same lodge in some places. Civekos LLC both builds the facilities and designs, implements and facilitates organization patterns and best practices into a manual and periodic training for the residents. Some lodges will have formal managers, others more collectively oriented, as long as organization-wide baseline conditions are respected. The “urban home” philosophy common to all civekos lodges is articulated in the forthcoming Civekos Manifesto.

In regards to the TiE ForSE Social Enterprise Pitch-SE Contest, Civekos merits consideration on the following criteria

  • Social Impact: enabling the work of social enterprises by handling housing issues, and, using mission-driven housing to connect organizations to their local community
  • Innovation: residential cooperatives, service-oriented social enterprises, and multi-site real estate trusts have not collaborated in this way for a branded, affordable, ecologically responsible  housing concept to support the end goals of service organizations.
  • Feasibility of idea: connects existing successful organizaitonal models, and does not rely on unique technology, talent or locational considerations.
  • Sustainable business model: each node is semi-independent, Civekos can grow as localized conditions permit.

An average civekos lodge will have 10-15 members living in one building with shared common space but private rooms for the residents. For example, the civekos lodge could be built or arranged in Boston to house City Year volunteers. A civekos lodge could be a valuable partner in a place like Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where many international agencies need safe, stable housing for their workers. Many organizations have relationships with housing providers: Civekos is a brand that is designed to integrate with the local community and to be a dependable partner for social enterprises who do not want to worry about housing, but for whom housing is an essential dimension of reality for their staff (esp. junior and short-term staff).

Civekos is essentially a housing trust expressed as an archipelago spread across many sites where high-impact social benefit organizations need dependable positive housing for their staff and volunteers.  One potential model is for each lodge to have four dimensions of income.

  • Long-term residents who live in the lodge for more than 1 year and maintain a sense of community in the facility.
  • Seasonal residents who come through for a semester-long program of service or a one-month volunteer assignment.
  • Short term, week-or-less visitors who are coming as guests of the residents or of the affiliated partner organizations, perhaps donors visiting to see a project or perhaps the lodge does serve as a hostel for social enterprise-oriented guests.
  • Renting space in the facility to a local community business like a household renewable-energy device vendor, local professional like a lawyer, or a health-conscious cafe.

Civekos may become a management partner to less mission-aligned existing housing options for partner organizations, to enhance a local hostel or locally-owned apartment complex for the end users.

The business model of Civekos is to partner with organizations that have a housing requirement for their staff but do not want to be in the housing business. Civekos can customize lodges to the requirements of the partners and modulate to the realities of the communities in which they are operating. Civekos is offers a series of benefits to the many stakeholders:

  • Provide high-quality, secure, ecologically responsible housing for partner agencies
  • Bring together social-enterprise workers/volunteers in micro-communities
  • Establish physical places for socially progressive culture to flourish and positively infect the surrounding communities
  • Guide and facilitate the spontaneous creation of leadership and self-management in the residential communities of each lodge
  • Provide an investment opportunity in real estate for socially responsible investors

Civekos LLC requires $50k in seed funding to proceed with feasibility studies of its first lodges. This will include building out a website and marketing material to prospective partner organizations, and legal and design work on exploring sites. A future round of approximately $1M will be necessary to initiate the creation of a lodge (or lodges) at the most promising sites, dependent upon the strategic relationships with social service organizations. The return on investment is through the future income from the rental of residences and any anciliary income from the lodges. The nodal nature of the lodges ensures the organization can prudently invest in opportunities and also has the capacity to scale as the brand’s strength grows.


Grey Lee is a social entrepreneuer who has managed an 11-person residential cooperative in Cambridge MA for the past 8 years. He also has four years experience as the executive director of an educational community farm (Land’s Sake, Inc.) and helped co-found the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG) which fosters sustainable development through business incubation in the global south. He holds a Master’s in Real Estate Finance from the London School of Economics and a BS (cum laude) in Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont’s College of Agriculture. He works as a sustainability consultant for the Dutch firm Except, and also works as a commercial real estate broker focused on green workspace services for tenant clients. He maintains LEED AP credentials and has a certificate in Sustainable Design from the Boston Architectural College. He speaks fluent Portugues and Spanish, and conversational French.

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