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Networkshop aims to bolster social entrepreneurship


February 01, 2011

About 40 faculty, staff, administrators and community leaders came together at SkySong, ASU’s innovation center, for a half-day networkshop focused on bolstering and growing social entrepreneurship in Arizona.

ASU co-sponsored the gathering with Social Venture Partners Arizona, a philanthropic organization dedicated to bringing together professionals and nonprofit organizations to help build connections. Among the attendees were representatives from a diverse blend of ASU schools, colleges and programs, as well as local nonprofit and social venture groups.

Jacqueline Smith, director of social embeddedness, said the networkshop was designed to bring together individuals committed to advancing social entrepreneurship and social innovation in the Phoenix metropolitan area and the state of Arizona.

“The meeting was a first step towards building a regional community that will collaborate to create a statewide summit in the late spring or early summer. This summit will bring together change agents from a variety of sectors and backgrounds including policymakers, entrepreneurs, educators, investors and program evaluators,” Smith said.

Mitzi Montoya, executive dean of the College of Technology and Innovation at the Polytechnic campus, helped facilitate brainstorming activities.

“The objective of the … workshop was to plant the seed of the possibility of even greater positive social impact,” Montoya said.

Montoya said that the Valley has many practitioners, educators, investors and advocates, all with common interests, and added that harmonizing those interests will be far more effective than continuing to operate individually.

“The importance (of the event) is for the social entrepreneurship community,” said Dan O’Neill, venture acceleration practice lead for the Venture Catalyst at ASU. “It has some strong connections but at the same time is also loosely knit.”

The event allowed people to collectively leverage their knowledge and resources, O’Neill said.

A theme quickly emerged at the networkshop where connections between individuals were made from the start of the program, when attendees networked in pairs and then introduced one another to the larger group.

Patrick McWhortor, president and CEO of Alliance for Arizona Nonprofits, said he came to the event to meet people with similar interests and see what opportunities could be developed in Arizona.

“I just found someone at the (Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law) that can help get pro bono legal assistance to our nonprofits,” McWhortor said. “Finding out what people are doing, I’m always able to see that there are so many intriguing, creative people doing really powerful work around the community that I might not have ever heard about."

Heather Carter, clinical associate professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, said the event was the third networkshop she has attended.

“We have established classes, academic programs and partnerships external to the university that without events like this would not have happened,” Carter said. “This is just one of the many forums we have where we can bring people together that otherwise might not have known each other.”

Written by Kyle Patton, Office of University Initiatives