School of Social Work empowers community members to explore social change ventures with second annual social entrepreneurship conference

The Wayne State School of Social Work, the Mike Ilitch School of Business and OptimizeWayne will host the 2nd annual social entrepreneurship conference on April 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mike Ilitch School of Business. The event is $10 for Wayne State students and costs $35 for all others. Refreshments and lunch are provided. Pre-registration is required, and space is limited. Register here.

“Social Entrepreneurship: Promoting and Advancing Social Innovation and Social Enterprise in Southeast Michigan” has been organized by the School of Social Work’s Social Entrepreneurship Committee. It will begin with nationally-acclaimed keynote speaker Morgan Simon, author of Real Impact: The New Economics of Social Change. Morgan Simon is a widely recognized leader in the field of impact investment who advocates for greater racial and gender inclusiveness and builds bridges between finance and social justice. In praise for her book, Van Jones has said “Morgan Simon has made a significant contribution with the very big idea that we can change the world by changing how we all relate to money. And lucky for us, Simon is as entertaining in her writing as she is brilliant in her concepts.” Morgan will present “Getting Real about Impact.”

Conference participants will have the opportunity to hear from social entrepreneurs in the field and The New Economy Initiative’s (NEI) Detroit Innovation Fellows will be featured during an after- lunch panel presentation. The local fellows will discuss their successes and challenges in addressing protracted social problems in Detroit.

Attendees can customize their workshop selections from three content areas or tracks. Track one will provide focused content on business planning and development for those wishing to start or grow a social enterprise, while track two will cover best practices for engaging with communities around transformative and sustainable change. The third track will highlight social enterprise and social innovation. For a complete listing of the dynamic speakers and subject matter visit the conference registration page. A few highlights follow.

Track one provides business planning and development workshops for would-be or existing social entrepreneurs and will feature a presentation on Forming your For-profit, Nonprofit or Social Enterprise: An Overview of Legal Entity Selections presented by student attorneys under the supervision Anne Choike, Director of the Wayne State University Law School Business and Community Law Clinic. There are several financing social impact workshops including a Crowdfunding 101 workshop presented by Cassie Coravos, Capitals Program Manager at the Build Institute, as well as a financing presentation panel.  Derrin Leppek, adjunct faculty member of the business school and Director of the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at University of Detroit Mercy will facilitate a workshop on defining your social venture’s target market. Wayne State undergraduate students, Isha Naik, Nadiya Sharif, and Sara Fesard from OptimizeWayne, a student-run social innovation program at Wayne State will present “Why Not Me? Tackling Fear and Starting your Social Entrepreneurship Journey,” which will feature dialogue and innovative ways on how to promote student social entrepreneurial aspirations, motivations and talents.

Track two features best practices on how to engage communities in the co-creation process. It features a panel presentation with successful social change agents and community for-impact organizational leaders working in Detroit including Alice Thompson, CEO of Black Family Development, Inc., Reverend Faith Fowler, Executive Director of Cass Community Social Services and Tiny Home Detroit, and Nicole Jurek, Founder of Local Circles. Oncology surgeon and humanitarian, Dr. Richard Keidan will present a workshop on his work in Nepal to create sustainable social innovation to address community public health needs for the past 20 years.

Track three features social enterprise and social innovation includes business school adjunct faculty member and serial entrepreneur, Edward Kim, who will lead a workshop discussing a new social venture startup that provides an innovative online platform for money and savings accumulation for small businesses. Another workshop will provide an overview of emerging social impact bonds and pay-for-success models, led by Stephanie Mercier, Director of Impact Investment at CHS, the largest provider of supportive housing in the U.S.

Social entrepreneurship has become a priority of the School of Social Work in recent years as it has worked to expand and strengthen its macro training, most notably through the revision of its M.S.W. concentration Innovation in Community, Policy, and Leadership (I-CPL). Adjunct faculty member Marijo Upshaw, who created and teaches the school’s Social Entrepreneurship (SW 6991) course and also teaches social entrepreneurship and impact investing courses in the Mike Ilitch School of Business, said conference planners expect to attract a trans-disciplinary audience of 300 community professionals, alumni, students, faculty and staff who are interested in exploring this emerging field and how it relates to their professional interests and goals as change agents.

“The social entrepreneurship ecosystem in Metropolitan Detroit is growing,” Upshaw said. “We’re excited about bringing together people in our own backyard who are creating new ways to address unmet societal needs through social enterprise and experimenting with social innovation to achieve greater social impact. We also hope to attract persons who are just curious about social entrepreneurship and how it applies to their academic, professional and personal interests, as well as budding social entrepreneurs who are interested in gaining practical knowledge about how to start or grow a social change venture.”

Additional upcoming events sponsored by the School of Social Work’s Social Entrepreneurship Committee include Social
Work Startup Story Night on March 20th from 6-8 pm, which features a curated group of social work entrepreneurs start-up stories developed in conjunction with professional storyteller Satori Shakoor from the Society of Twisted Storytellers and a customized business planning course for social workers and Build Social Work on Thursday evenings from 6-9 pm from March 7 – May 9, which was developed by The Build Institute and helps people turn their business ideas into reality by providing them with the necessary tools, resources, and support network in Detroit. They have graduated over 1,400 aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs from their classes, many of whom have gone on to start successful businesses in the city.

For more information on the conference or other sponsored events, please contact Shantalea Johns at the School of Social Work at Wayne State University at 313-577-4463 or for more information. Register online via Eventbrite.

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