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Social Economy in Higher Education >
submitted by Elise Chapman, RIS Global & SEA Chapter member
Excitement built during a community panel titled, “When Passion Meets Purpose and Profit” hosted by the Milwaukee Business Journal, spurring a group interest in the topic of social innovation. The panel discussion, a follow-up to “Wisconsin’s Emerging Social Innovation Ecosystem” conference hosted by ManpowerGroup, was an informal start of the creation of the Wisconsin SEA Chapter.
However, the seeds for a local SEA chapter were planted in Wisconsin years prior. Entrepreneur and current President/CVO of Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC), Wendy Baumann, elaborated, “WWBIC was one of the first members in the national Social Enterprise Alliance and had actually been at the table in the forming of the national association decades ago – thus we are absolutely thrilled that Milwaukee has now officially formed a local SEA Chapter. It has been exciting to see the development of the industry – the new faces and organizations with great interest in the field of social enterprise along with the many who have been engaged for years.” WWBIC’s “Coffee with a Conscience” social enterprise was featured at a recent Wisconsin SEA Chapter meeting.
The needs for a foundation for social innovation in Milwaukee were apparent by the larger-than-expected turnouts at each event. "Having a Social Enterprise Alliance chapter here in the Milwaukee area will allow for access to resources and opportunities for those entrepreneurs looking to start and grow businesses around social causes. This effort enhances the already vibrant entrepreneurial community in the region,” said Michael Hostad, Executive Director, Innovation in Milwaukee.
“To date, the provisional chapter has established a cross-sector membership base, shared with members and cross-sector parties important information about social innovation opportunities around the city and across the State, and shone a spotlight on social ventures. In addition, the chapter has formed an interim leadership team to help the group better define itself and identify key initiatives moving forward” said Deanna Singh, Executive Director of The Burke Foundation. The chapter has held initial quarterly member meetings connecting SEA Chapter prospective members to others facing similar challenges while striving to be a “hub” of social enterprise networking, partnerships, peer support and best practices.
The interim leadership group of Wisconsin SEA meets regularly and has a solid, balanced representation of government, corporate, foundation and nonprofit sectors, and strong leadership, which facilitates a platform for sharing stories, highlighting local organizations or entrepreneurs, and connecting resources. This group includes the author of this article, the aforementioned Ms. Singh, Mr. Holstad, Carol Voss (IndependenceFirst), Jamie Elder (State of Wisconsin) as well as leader Jeff Snell, founder of Midwest Social Innovation, who notes,
“Building on a member-driven mission and agenda, which remains foremost in the near-term, our goals for the year ahead include serving as a convening body on city and state-wide social innovation related opportunities that will grow our ecosystem (social impact bonds, co-creating incubators and accelerators, pitch contests, etc.), as well as leveraging ongoing efforts, particularly among colleges and universities, and developing a culture that celebrates best-in-class social innovation among individuals and communities. People inspire people; the more we hold up and celebrate impactful stories that capture key characteristics of good social innovation, the more catalytic we can be to grow the social innovation movement.” As for future goals, the Wisconsin SEA group is exploring how to create the chapter to be a “best fit” in the Wisconsin social innovation community, provide information, increase awareness and learn from high-performing local social ventures.
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