Category Archives: social entrepreneurship

Smith School Undergrads Present Research in Rome

SIF Conference Sign

From left: Fasika Delessa, Evan Haas, Aishwariya Chandrasekar, Sarina Haryanto and Professor David Kirsch

by: Megan McPherson

On April 18-19, four Smith School students in the Center for Social Value Creation’s Social Innovation Fellows program, Sarina Haryanto, Aishwariya Chandrasekar, Fasika Delessa and Evan Haas, and Professor David Kirsch attended the inaugural IESE-LUISS Business School Conference on Responsibility, Sustainability and Social Entrepreneurship in Rome. Under the guidance of Professor Kirsch, these undergraduate students presented their paper, Hybrid Organizations and Social Enterprise Ecosystems: Findings from a U.S. Survey, to a room full of established academics.

The survey that formed the basis of their research was first launched by Halcyon Incubator in Washington, D.C. Last year, Halcyon released From the Ground Up: Defining Social Enterprise Systems in the U.S., the results of a nationwide survey to social entrepreneurs that assessed cities based on four “pillars” that create a healthy framework for a social enterprise ecosystem: Funding, Quality of Life, Human Capital and Regulations & Receptivity. The findings of the report designated Washington D.C. the number one ecosystem for social entrepreneurs.

After Halcyon Incubator formed an official partnership with the Dingman Center this past fall, Dingman Center Associate Director for Social Entrepreneurship Sara Herald and Halcyon Incubator Program Manager Ryan Ross discussed a research partnership on this year’s survey. Sara reached out to David Kirsch and the Social Innovation Fellows, who as part of their program must do a practicum or consulting project in the spring semester. Sarina, Aishwariya, Fasika and Evan were eager to volunteer, and with support from their professor, started the rigorous process of researching, refining and amending the content of the original survey, as well as expanding the survey’s outreach to increase the quantity and quality of participants.

When I interviewed Sarina and Aishwariya about their research experience, Sarina reflected on the first survey, “We were wondering, how did they come up with these four pillars in the first place? That’s when literature review became really essential.” As part of the academic process, every change they made had to be documented and justified with established research to eliminate bias as much as possible. When determining new questions to add to the survey, Aishwariya commented , “It was interesting to move out of our own perspectives. We had to imagine what people looking at the report would want to see, or what people answering the surveys would want to see.”

Throughout this exploration into academia, David Kirsch, the Dingman Center’s 2017 Rudy Award winner for Faculty Member of the Year, acted as a supportive guide and mentor. “Professor Kirsch has been our champion since day one,” Sarina exclaimed, going on to tell me about the late nights he spent with them at the Smith School to collaborate on their research. Sarina and Aishwariya both described the paper as a “consummate effort” on the part of the students and their professor. The night before their presentation in Rome, they all stayed in the hotel lobby until 2 a.m. to practice, talking through the paper and responses to potential questions. In one particularly surreal moment, Professor Kirsch told the fellows, “You need to refer to me as your co-author and you need to call me David.” Sarina and Aishwariya admitted, “We had to practice!”

In Rome, the academic community proved welcoming of these young students already engaged in high-level social innovation research. The fellows had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with their academic “celebrities,” people whose work was frequently cited in their paper. They were honored that several of these academics, including keynote speaker Johanna Mair, attended their presentation. Since their own presentation comprised a short span of the two-day conference, they attended many other interesting sessions as well on topics ranging from scaling social impact to an anthropological analysis of milk.

After the conference, the students went on an extensive food and sightseeing tour of Rome with Professor Kirsch. Along the way they had the chance to visit Impact Hub Rome, where they learned of the unique cultural challenges Rome poses as a social enterprise ecosystem. For example, in Italy public funding has a negative connotation, so there are fewer government-funded foundations that generate impact. Though social enterprises in Rome are also not legally distinct from for-profit businesses, they fulfill a valuable role in supplementing the lack of publicly-funded resources.

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The overall experience of the research project, conference and Rome trip had no small impact upon Sarina, Aishwariya, Fasika and Evan. Aishwariya remarked that “Before this, going into a PhD or writing a dissertation just seemed unapproachable.” Sarina agreed, adding, “Investing a lot of time and effort in research, it’s such a fulfilling process to see how we’re producing knowledge…That trip opened my eyes to academia and it’s something I look forward to doing in life.” Both of them were confident on one point: “Social Innovation Fellows has changed our lives.”

The team of students and Professor Kirsch are currently working on finalizing the paper and their findings to submit to the Journal of Business Ethics, which is releasing a special issue devoted to the conference. Over the next few months, they will continue to extrapolate trends from the survey data and examine potential correlations between cities. We look forward to sharing the results of their research in the next Social Enterprise Ecosystems report.


Funding for Sarina Haryanto, Aishwariya Chandrasekar, Fasika Delessa and Evan Haas to travel to Rome and attend the conference was provided by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, the Center for Social Value Creation, Office of Global Initiatives and the Office of Undergraduate Studies.

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Exploring Social Entrepreneurship at the Ashoka U Exchange

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by: Katie Aranas and Trerese Roberts

Social entrepreneurship is a trending topic around the world, but since it’s a fairly new concept, it can be difficult to understand. The organization Ashoka has made it their mission to build a community where people are “capable of responding quickly and effectively to social challenges, and in which each individual has the freedom, confidence and societal support to address any social problem and drive change.” Part of the organization, Ashoka U, focuses on colleges and universities to catalyze social innovation and social entrepreneurship in higher education. Last month, the group hosted their annual conference, the Ashoka U Exchange, in Miami, FL. There were over 750 participants, 150 colleges involved from around the world, and 100 sessions to attend. During the Exchange, Ashoka U offered site visits, workshops, panels, and keynotes. In addition, attendees were able to network during the lunch breaks.

We attended as student representatives from UMD and leaders of our Enactus chapter.  The first workshop we attended, “Social Entrepreneurship for All”, began by asking audience what the word “entrepreneurship” means to each of us in one word. Immediately, we could see that there was a divide between business and non-business majors when it comes to the field of Social Entrepreneurship. We discussed how to bridge the gap between both groups so that everyone engages in this field. One suggestion was to teach social entrepreneurship as a new ‘language’, while being aware of the terminology that is being used in different groups. Another suggestion made was to go out into the local community to see social entrepreneurship first-hand. Being able to see it in action is one of the best ways to really understand how it works and experience the impact that is gives. James Madison University created the “10-5-3 Challenge” in which students talk to 10 people that they did not know, have 5 questions prepared for those that they talk to, and have 3 stories to tell them about social entrepreneurship.

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Ladies First Profile: The Story Behind 2B

This story is part of a blog series for the launch of Ladies First, the Dingman Center’s commitment to increase the number of women involved in entrepreneurship at UMD.

By: Nina Silverstein

I began every year of my teaching tenure in Baltimore by asking my students what they wanted to be when they grew up. My kindergarten and first grade students were eager to announce that they were going to be a teacher or a police officer or a football player. A select few said they wanted to be doctors or firefighters. I noticed that when I called my students “Dr. Demetira” or “Police Officer Denard”, their interest and engagement in their schoolwork peaked. Additionally, when my school held a career day, I again saw the level of engagement in school peak. It was as if the students saw the possibilities of future endeavors appear before them and helped them realize why school was important to achieving that.

2B colors.pngThat was when the idea for 2B emerged. 2B is a mission-driven clothing company aimed at expanding children’s horizons and helping them to envision themselves as a variety of different occupations when they grow up. 2B seeks to help students learn about different careers by providing books and clothing centered around each occupation, which helps to provide reasoning for why school is an important factor to their future success. We aim to make the connection between hard work in school and future attainment of their dreams. In order to ensure that all children benefit from envisioning their dreams, 2B will be donated to under-resourced schools so that every child, regardless of background, has the same access to opportunity and the same ability to envision themselves as anything they want to be when they grow up.

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Wrapping Up a Fantastic Semester at the Dingman Center

It’s that time of year. The stream of talented student entrepreneurs we’ve seen come through our doors begins to thin out with the arrival of finals, commencement and (at last!) winter break. But in the quiet of their absence, we can fondly reminisce on the outstanding semester we’ve had at the Dingman Center. In the past couple of months, we’ve seen a record amount of energy and engagement from the community in our programs. Read on for some of our favorite highlights from the semester.

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Smith MBA Candidate Launches a Global Renewable Energy Startup

adegbiteb-18aug15-1In celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, we are taking at look at some of the global impact movers and shakers within our Terp network. Meet Babafemi Adegbite (or Femi as he’s known within Van Munching Hall) MBA ’17  who is launching a global social enterprise startup. The mission of his startup, ReEmpower, is to help alleviate global energy poverty through renewables while also empowering the communities it serves. More than 1 billion people worldwide, even those above the poverty line, lack access to energy which affects their ability to get clean water, medical care and education.

Growing up in Nigeria, Femi saw the effects of energy instability firsthand. Living in a world where women give birth in hospitals without power and children do their homework by dim candlelight, he saw a desperate need to solve this problem. While he was an undergraduate student, impact investing took off and Femi found inspiration from Jacqueline Novogratz’s book, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World. Femi looked at the issue he wanted to tackle and worked backwards to guide his career toward that goal. He started working for Solar City, the number one solar installer in the United States. After four years of familiarizing himself with the solar industry, Femi decided to pursue an MBA so that he could start his own company.

Over the next year, Femi will be working to launch ReEmpower in Nigeria. Currently he is focused on customer acquisition, project development and of course the most challenging part—financing. Within the first few years, ReEmpower will focus on setting up solar power micro grids. Customers would range from government entities to individuals who will be able to pay-as-you-go based on income levels. Femi’s long-term goals for ReEmpower are to expand into other renewables and to enter new markets outside Nigeria.

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Bootstrapped Season 2 Opens with Social Venture MISFIT Juicery

From their dorm room at Georgetown University to the exclusive Chobani Food Incubator in New York City, the co-founders of MISFIT Juicery, Ann Yang and Phil Wong, are growing their food startup into a recognizable brand with a mission. MISFIT fights food waste by using discarded “ugly” fruits and vegetables to make their attractive and delicious line of cold-pressed juices.

To close out our Ladies First launch, co-hosts Elana Fine and Joe Bailey interviewed female founder Ann Yang and her co-founder Phil Wong about their journey as rising social entrepreneurs on the second season premiere of our Bootstrapped podcast. Listen below and subscribe on iTunes.

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Introducing the Fall 2016 Idea Shell Cohort

Each semester, the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship runs a 6-week long program called Idea Shell, the first phase of our Fearless Founders Accelerator. Using lean startup methodology, students are encouraged to perform numerous customer interviews and continuously pivot on their idea as they work toward launching their startup.

This fall saw two major changes to the Idea Shell formula. The first was the addition of new our two-day idea festival, spark: Where Fearless Ideas Start, the weekend prior to the first Idea Shell workshop on October 12. Of the students currently enrolled in Idea Shell, 25% came to spark and left with an idea for a problem they wanted to solve. The second major change is the input of our new Student & Venture Program Manager, Chris Rehkamp, who debuted as the instructor of Terp Startup this summer and has been a welcoming fixture at Dingman Fridays this fall.

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Ladies First Spotlight: The Story Behind Cocoa Queens

This story is part of a blog series for the launch of Ladies First, the Dingman Center’s commitment to increase the number of women involved in entrepreneurship at UMD.

by: Nadia Laniyan

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Nadia Laniyan ’16

During the fall semester of my senior year at University of Maryland I was taking an English course titled “Writing for Social Entrepreneurship.” This was the second professional writing course I took during undergrad, because unlike most seniors, as a part of my Individual Studies Program requirements I had to take two of these courses instead of one. Needless to say, I was not excited about having to take this extra English class, but it quickly became one of my favorite classes. Social entrepreneurship became this new and intriguing world that opened up an innovative side of me that I did not know existed.

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Announcing Ladies First: a community of changemakers, creators, and pioneers at UMD

Here at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship we believe that the skills taught by the process of launching a new venture are useful for everyone. Whether a student is interested in launching a traditional business, a social venture, being an “intrapreneur” with an existing organization, or is just passionate about solving a particular problem, our courses and programs are designed to help.

But the truth is that the entrepreneurship world is not as diverse as it should be, because not everyone who could be an entrepreneur thinks it’s a viable option for them. Those who take the entrepreneurial plunge, particularly in high-growth fields like technology, are lionized in our culture. But when we think of those entrepreneurs, we almost exclusively think of men, often without realizing it.  When you search online for images of “famous entrepreneurs”, you see multiple pictures of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates, along with others like Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson. Out of the first 33 images, only 3 are of women.  Popular culture often overlooks female founders, and the statistics behind gender and entrepreneurship are troubling: while women launched 41% of new businesses on average for the last two decades, that number is falling. It’s even worse in the tech world: in Silicon Valley, only 3% of technology companies are started by women.  Currently, our classes and programs reflect that gender imbalance.ladies-first-badges-black

We’re committed to changing that. The Dingman Center is proud to launch the Ladies First initiative to increase the number of women involved in entrepreneurship at University of Maryland.  Instead of simply increasing marketing efforts to women on our campus, we’re going to help women solve the problems they care about. In many instances, those problems are ones facing our society: climate change, hunger, poverty and inequality, and launching social ventures is one way for them to take action on solving those problems. Entrepreneurship research supports this focus, as women are 17% more likely than men to start a social venture rather than a purely economic one.

In its inaugural year, the Ladies First initiative will:

  • Adapt our courses and programs to be inclusive to social entrepreneurs
  • Expand what it means to be an entrepreneur on our campus

In order to achieve those goals, we must tell stories about diverse entrepreneurs, so that when someone says the term “entrepreneur” we think of Sarah Kauss, founder of S’well, or a classmate who has started a venture, instead of only famous male entrepreneurs. Ladies First launches this week with a series of events, communication pieces, and a visual campaign promoting what female founders look like at the University of Maryland. Additional programming will be offered throughout the school year as we strive to increase the number of women opting in to entrepreneurship on our campus.

Stay tuned for more blog posts in this Ladies First series, and learn more about the initiative on our website.

 

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The Rise of Social Enterprise: A Review of “Not Business As Usual”

by: Abraham Sidibe

This past week, the Dingman Center partnered with the Center for Social Value Creation to host a movie screening of “Not Business As Usual”, an informative documentary created by Institute B in 2014 about the transformation of the business world from capitalist to conscious capitalist.  The movie told the stories of several social entrepreneurs who are bringing humanity back into business. Institute B is an entrepreneur accelerator for businesses that put profit and societal value on equal footing as profits. They develop entrepreneurs by providing education, consulting and funding. They are also the same people who helped shape the business cultures of Starbucks, IKEA, and lululemon.

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Miss the screening? Watch the full film here.

The film is an incredible resource for those who want to fix a social problem through business because it documents the history of social business and shares the stories of social entrepreneurs who are working to be a force for positive social and environmental change. One interesting thing I learned from this movie is that sustainability metrics continuously evolve. There is always a way to be more sustainable and have lower impact products, starting with the supply chain. Although there is also no way to have entirely zero impact when producing products, there are ways to minimize those negative effects.

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