SEED

SEEED Summit Recap

by Allie Smith

On March 16th and 17th, Social Ven­ture Part­ners Rhode Island (SVPRI) and Brown University’s Social Inno­va­tion Ini­tia­tive and Entre­pre­neur­ship Pro­gram launched their first Social Enter­prise Ecosys­tem and Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment (SEEED) Sum­mit at Brown Uni­ver­sity. Approx­i­mately 450 social entre­pre­neurs, busi­ness lead­ers, local and national gov­ern­ment offi­cials, aca­d­e­mics, and stu­dents attended the 2-day con­fer­ence, com­ing together to dis­cuss the role of social enter­prise in eco­nomic development.

The keynote speak­ers of SEEED offered a diverse per­spec­tive on the chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties for devel­op­ing the social enter­prise sec­tor; John Maeda, pres­i­dent of the Rhode Island School of Design, dis­cussed the need for stu­dent involve­ment in the field, and stressed the impor­tance of excel­lent design and cre­ativ­ity in education. “Students are not afraid to exper­i­ment,” he noted.

A panel of suc­cess­ful Rhode Island-based entre­pre­neurs exam­ined the chal­lenges fac­ing start-ups, and how they have seen their own work grow to cre­ate national and global impact. Pan­elists included Aaron Horowitz and Han­nah Chung, cre­ators of Jerry the Bear, a teddy bear that helps kids with Type 1 Dia­betes adjust to their new lifestyle; Feli­cia Del­gado, the founder of Esther’s Well, a faith-based home for women who have pre­vi­ously been vic­tims of pros­ti­tu­tion and human traf­fick­ing; and Den­nis Lit­tky, founder of The Met School, an inno­v­a­tive, experienced-based model for high school edu­ca­tion. The MET model has inspired an inter­na­tional net­work of over 80 sim­i­lar schools.

The con­fer­ence closed on Sat­ur­day after­noon with esteemed speaker, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive David Cicilline (D-R.I). Cicilline brought excit­ing news to atten­dees with the announce­ment that he is draft­ing national leg­is­la­tion to sup­port the grow­ing net­work of social enter­prises. The “SEEED Act”, would amend the Small Busi­ness Act to bet­ter assist mission-driven social enter­prises. It would also estab­lish a fed­eral Office of Social Entre­pre­neur­ship. “Social entre­pre­neur­ship is not a Demo­c­ra­tic approach or a Repub­li­can approach, it’s a mutual endeavor”, Cicilline said. “Our social entre­pre­neurs are trans­form­ing our soci­ety in ways tra­di­tional sys­tems and pro­grams cannot”.

The North­east­ern Social Enter­prise Insti­tute was rep­re­sented by Gail Batutis (‘16) and Allie Smith (‘16).

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