Social Entrepreneurship Organization promotes social innovation among students

A group at Wayne State University fosters a culture of social innovation and social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship has increasingly become a focus within the School of Social Work and has expanded its macro training, most notably through its revised MSW concentration, Innovation in Community, Policy, and Leadership (I-CPL).

Tomiko Gumbleton serves as the Social Work Social Entrepreneurship (SWSE) student organization co-president, along with I-CPL Social Work student, Julia Stewart.

“Julia and I would like to grow the organization and expand the understanding of what social entrepreneurship is and how it informs our work as social workers. It’s rewarding to learn about and be part of a larger community where social justice, creativity, innovation, and serving the community shows up in impactful and tangible outcomes,” Gumbleton said.

SESW group photo
From back left: Academic Services Officer II Andre Iadipaolo, and SWSE member Mackenzie Sprecher, SWSE Co-President Julia Stewart, member Audrey McPartlin, member Drew Miller, and SWSE Co-President Tomiko Gumbleton

As for the definition of “social entrepreneurs,” Gumbleton described them as “creators within the community.” They use entrepreneurship knowledge, skills, and abilities to address social problems like homelessness, poverty, and violence.

“I believe our social work training helps us make a lasting difference in the community by partnering with others and working creatively to address challenges. Through this creative process, we can address inequities, fill in gaps, and also celebrate our culture and community,” she said.

Funding your social venture panel
Alexis Dishman, chief lending officer from Michgan Women Forward presenting at Funding Your Social Venture event

Last December, the group cohosted a “Social Entrepreneurship Conference” along with the SSW Social Entrepreneurship Committee. Given rising food insecurity and the inequities in the food space that the pandemic highlighted, the conference focused on food production, distribution, and retail operations and social innovation and enterprise. Participants heard from social entrepreneurs, community-based food producers, program developers, and thought-leaders who are addressing food and environmental challenges through social innovation and enterprise.

Events planned for this year include visiting and touring a Detroit social enterprise (they visited two businesses last fall). They’re also securing a date to visit the Empowerment Plan, a place which provides employment and training for individuals experiencing homelessness.

Anyone interested can join the group by visiting Get Involved. Faculty, alumni, staff, donors, and community members are also encouraged to join and participate.

Author: Laura Hipshire

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