David Packard, co-founder of HP, once said that, “The betterment of society is not a job to be left to a few. It’s a responsibility to be shared by all.” Well, on March 16th at EPICentre’s Fuelling Social Enterprise event, various students and professionals demonstrated their desire to understand the potential of social enterprise and how business can be a positive force in society. These 50-odd community stakeholders, who recognize their responsibility to share in the betterment of society, attended workshops, networked with sector experts, and formed connections with like-minded, socially driven individuals in an effort to discover the role they can play in the economic and social development of Windsor-Essex County.
The day opened with an amazing keynote from Ilana Ben-Ari, founder, CEO, and Lead Designer of Twenty One Toys. Ilana spoke on the importance of empathy, openness, and communication in the current business landscape. She explained how “learning to speak different languages” and not allowing failure to derail your hard-work are key abilities anyone looking to be a social innovator or entrepreneur must have. As well, she explored some of the struggles she overcame while starting her own socially motivated business and the success she has now found, with her Empathy Toy being featured in TIME Magazine as “one of the 6 new technologies shaping classrooms of the future.”
From there, event attendees had an opportunity to take part in various workshops focused on explaining the key concepts of social enterprise and developing the necessary skills required to be a social entrepreneur. Representatives from Libro Credit Union and Pillar Nonprofit Network explained how to access capital and give your idea the financial fuel it needs to thrive, while Frazier Fathers from United Way explained the methods and importance of measuring the social impact your enterprise is able to have. Afterwards, Adam Frye from WEtech Alliance taught attendees how to develop a sustainable, social business model and Geoff Evans from Social Media Coach described how to effectively use storytelling to communicate the positive impact your business is having in society. All of these workshops were EXCELLENT and extremely informative, I can’t thank these wonderful guest speakers enough for their willingness to spur on the growth of social enterprise in Windsor-Essex.
Finally, the day concluded with a living library session where attendees were able to have intimate conversations with change-makers and sector experts. Uma Venkataramaiah (United Way), Adam Frye (WEtech Alliance), Allie Daniels (Enactus Canada), and Liz Arkinstall (Libro Credit Union) spoke with attendees about their connection to social innovation and enterprise, explained their individual career paths, and shared the positive impact they have been able to have in their communities. All of their conversations were extremely engaging and inspirational. Unfortunately, I found myself being the “bad guy” by reminding our attendees that the event, and their storytelling sessions, could not last forever.
However, while the event had to end, I am confident that the connections made and conversations started at EPICentre will not! It was an absolute pleasure to plan this event and play a small role in the growth and promotion of social enterprise in our community. I am beyond excited to see how socially motivated businesses will continue to develop in our community, and develop our community, in the coming years. EPICentre has and will continue to generate an atmosphere that encourages and promotes social enterprise and sustainability through their programming. I can’t wait to see the social enterprise landscape in our community transform over the next few years!