Design · Economy · Education · Millennials

Integration and Social Enterprise: A Talk for NYWSE #PSEItrip

Tomorrow I’m giving a talk to fifteen Princeton students on a tour of social entrepreneurship in New York City, which was organized by the New York Women Social Entrepreneurs group. I’m on a panel about media, tech, and other topics.

To collect my thoughts, I’ll outline my presentation here.

I. INTEGRATION: My person vision is about integrating interests/expertise areas that might seem divergent because of the way we are trained in Academia. For example, you might tell me that my interest in food and yoga belongs in a nutrition career, whereas my writing and  journalism form a separate career path, and my focus on social entrepreneurship is a business thing. But they all intersect, and furthermore, where one is lacking in something, the other offers that. I’ll explain.

These are my main interests:

  • FOOD/WELLNESS/YOGA
  • WRITING/COMMUNICATIONS/CRITICAL THINKING
  • INNOVATION/SOCIAL CHANGE/ECONOMIC BETTERMENT

These are presumably separate worlds, but they don’t have to be. In one week, I go from moderating a panel discussion between grass-fed meat farmers, to writing an article about real estate’s impact on the local food world, to teaching a yoga class, to attending a reading for a new novel at a bookstore (and working on my own manuscript). True, this is not a full-time job with benefits; however I am creating my own full-time career where I am integrating knowledge, social networks, and resources from each of these three main interests.

Whether I’m engaged in something focused on agriculture, journalism, or yoga, I’m always looking at how it can bleed into the other categories. The food world, yoga world, writing world, and social enterprise world can all be too insular and introspective, but if we can take one thing and bring it into the other spaces, new potentials open up.

II. SOCIAL ENTERPRISE JOURNALISM: For over a year, I wrote for a website called Dowser.org. Unless you are involved in the social enterprise sector, you probably haven’t heard of it–which is the main issue I had with the site. I found it to be too insular and unable to appeal to wider audiences. And this is not the only case where I’ve seen this. Social enterprise journalism needs to be tied to broader interest stories in order to reach more people who don’t see themselves as social entrepreneurs. In fact, the words “social enterprise” are overused and becoming a catch phrase to symbolize a new kind of non-profit organization that’s just more cool-looking than its older counterparts. We need journalism that looks at social change and innovation from a public interest perspective, giving everyday readers a reason to read these stories about the small start-ups that are popping up everyday with the help of organizations like Echoing Green, as well as more established ones like Acumen Fund.

III. SOCIAL ENTERPRISE COMMUNICATIONS: It’s all about storytelling. Look to companies like IDEO to learn about how to apply storytelling to business-building. The current president of NYWSE, Kari Litzmann, has a web magazine as an integral part of her company, Rubina Design. Consumers want to learn about products and the people behind them, be entertained, and find ways to be engaged beyond giving up their dollars.

IV. THE FUTURE: I would like to see the concept of integration replacing the notion of social enterprise to some extent. How can individuals and organizations break down the barriers between academic disciplines, career goals, and ways of impacting the world?

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