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Forum for Social Entrepreneurs

by Greg St. Martin

The university hosted the ForSE 2010: Forum for Social Entrepreneurs on Oct. 30, drawing more than 200 scholars, students, social innovators, and investors to advance social entrepreneurship by sharing new technology and business ideas. President Joseph E. Aoun lauded the work done at Northeastern’s Social Enterprise Institute (SEI) — the only such institute in the Boston area, and founded and directed by professor Dennis Shaughnessy. After listening to students talk about their global experiences through SEI, President Aoun praised “the transformational power of social enterprise, not only on the recipient, but also on those who are working with the recipient.”

What the students are doing is powerful and impactful,” Aoun said. Through SEI, Northeastern students have traveled to the Dominican Republic, Belize and South Africa to conduct micro-finance field assessments, and interact with local entrepreneurs who are growing their businesses.

In addition, President Aoun said higher education is a form of social entrepreneurship, in that higher education — which he said is seeing an “explosion of demand” worldwide — leverages financial support to create public good.

At the conference, participants discussed a wide range of topics, including education, health, technology, and sustainability. Between panel discussions, visitors had the opportunity to network and foster relationships that could lead to new social venture concepts. Panelists discussed how mobile technology can address pressing social needs, how social entrepreneurs can bridge gaps to treating disease in poor countries, and how some businesses are pursuing ventures in renewable energy.

The conference was sponsored by SEI, Net Impact, and TiE Boston, the local chapter of a global non-profit promoting entrepreneurship.

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