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.