Social Enterprise Conference Connects and Inspires

se-heartThe 12th annual Social Enterprise Conference kicked off earlier this month with a host of new panelists, topics, and a contest for inspiring entrepreneurs. An entirely student-run event, the Conference is presented by students of the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. After being listed as one of the Top 12 Most Influential and Exclusive Executive Gatherings by Forbes.com in 2009, the Conference continues to grow and inspire meaningful change.

This year focused on “Sustaining Impact, Living Change”. This was a particularly poignant topic given the rapid closure of businesses nationwide following the economic downturn. Unfortunately the majority of small businesses continue to fail due to a variety of reasons. Conferences such as this offer prospective entrepreneurs the opportunity to learn from other's mistakes and build a network of supporters.

Typically a sold-out event, the Conference featured four keynote addresses, thirty panels, and a career fair for 1,200 conference participants. The event attracts students, alumni, and many professionals and company representatives looking to learn and meet aspiring entrepreneurs. The sessions and workshops were focused on fundraising, policy, networking, social media, as well as specific social enterprise projects and topics.

The “Pitch for Change” contest was a highlight for many participants this year. Individuals made elevator pitches for their idea, no business plan needed, to compete for the grand prize. They offered cash and consulting packages to the winners from Root Cause and also placed them on Echoing Green’s Fast Track roster.

The semi-finalists for Pitch for Change included ideas like KarmaGoat, where individuals can raise funds for charities by selling their unwanted items online. LexPop is an idea to make the “Wikipedia for the creation of open source public policy.” Its intention is to leverage crowdsourcing for knowledge to help shout over the current cacophony by special interest groups and lobbyists. Investours is another sprouting idea that merges travel to foreign countries with microfinancing local populations. The enterprise would host microfinance tours in developing countries for investors interested in SRI. The tour fees would create interest-free micro-leans for the local entrepreneurs they are introduced to along their journey.

These are just some of the great ideas by aspiring social enterprise owners. These types of gatherings and ideas help provide hope and convene knowledge to create the foundation for a better future.

The Social Enterprise Conference is an annual event. For more information about this year’s proceedings, please visit their website.

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