Social Enterprise Workshop for Budding Social Entrepreneurs

Social InnovationSocial Enterprise Bootcamp, a two-day workshop aimed at budding social entrepreneurs, was recently organized by students at Columbia University, New York University and the School of Visual Arts. An impressive array of speakers offered astute and practical advice to the participants at the workshop.

Greg van Kirk, founder of the New Development Solutions Group, told the participants, “Social entrepreneurship is when people tell you you’re crazy, that your idea will never take off, but you decide it’s important enough to do anyway.” Kirk cautioned that no business can change everything, and social enterprises that attempt to do too much eventually fail. He advised participants to focus on what they truly want to influence and then go ahead in that direction.

Joanna Opot of TerraCycle talked about the difficulties businesses face as they start scaling up, and gave examples from her own business and how she is trying to overcome the challenges. Joyce Meng of Givology advised participants to keep the costs low for as long as possible, as that is the right way to survive the pains of growth. Meng put forward thought provoking questions for the participants such as, “Do you really need an office in the early stages? Or will it make your business more likely to sink if something goes wrong?”

Jeffrey Hollender, keynote speaker at the workshop, and a co-founder of Seventh Generation, spoke about importance of doing what you love. He said that it is not easily to launch a social enterprise, and unless there is a deep commitment to the cause, it is easy to find an exit. He also emphasized on the importance of building strong values and a clear vision.

Jeff Chapin of IDEO spoke about how a human-centered design goes much beyond the aesthetics of a product or service, and may require re-engineering of an entire business model or processes to focus on the consumer. He provided practical examples from the field of water and sanitation where human-centered design thinking is making a positive social impact.

Photo Credit: Todorov40