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Apr. 2, 2012 10:00 am

7 steps to make Philadelphia closer to being a hub for social entrepreneurship

Philadelphia is a big market, has the infrastructure of other leading regions for social enterprise and, oh, the city has a lot of problems. That's the value proposition coming out of an event organized last week by the Knight Foundation, the Delaware Valley Grantmakers and Technically Philly and held at the University City Science Center.

Knight Foundation Philadelphia Program Director Donna Frisby-Greenwood addressing attendees of an event on Philadelphia distinguishing itself as a leader in social entrepreneurship.

Philadelphia is a big market, has the infrastructure of other leading regions for social enterprise and, oh, the city has a lot of problems.

That’s the value proposition coming out of an event organized last week by the Knight Foundation, the Delaware Valley Grantmakers and Technically Philly and held at the University City Science Center. Spurred in part by a post from this author, the event brought together more than 30 leaders in the region’s nonprofit, investment and socially-focused entrepreneur communities.

Kicked off by a presentation by Cheryl Dorsey, the president of the celebrated New York City-based social enterprise foundation Echoing Green, the event featured a large group discussion and then smaller breakout sessions on how the region might further its reputation for the effort.

There was no shortage of perspective from attendees.

Above, see a presentation this reporter gave at the event.

The conversation on social entrepreneurship — defined largely as putting impact above profit — comes from a sentiment this reporter has seen with increasing regularity, one that says the region needs a broader, more consumer facing distinction. Raising the profile of the existing industry infrastructure could attract more participants and create the type of business proximity that duplicates success elsewhere in Philadelphia, a variety of event attendees said.

Below, find seven of the most immediate steps that event attendees recommended. See the complete notes from the discussions here [PDF].

  1. Host a series of broader stakeholder meetings — Partnering with organizations like the Federal Reserve and other groups touching this space, there is a need for existing players to see the distinction Philadelphia can have in social entrepreneurship.
  2. Social mapping — As other industries and markets have done, the pipeline of the social entrepreneurship (or entrepreneurship and technology broadly) community should be followed, tracked and shared to see who’s here and find a better way to introduce the ecosystem to itself.
  3. Investment education — Something that other consumer-facing entrepreneurship communities in Philadelphia outside of life sciences often say themselves, there is a need for organizations like the University City Science Center to continue broadening the awareness of local investors about new opportunities, like social entrepreneurship.
  4. Increasing Mentorship — There is a continued need to connect the established, largely suburban ring entrepreneur community and the growing Center City-ring, newer, young entrepreneur community.
  5. Work with existing regional groups on incorporating social entrepreneurship as part of messaging, including PCVB, GPTMC, Select Greater Philadelphia, the Economy League, Chamber of Commerce and more. Many existing efforts for longterm regional envisioning should embrace this distinction.
  6. Encourage suburban based BLab to see Philadelphia as a place to focus on for growth. Other membership organizations that are already focused on social impact, like the Sustainable Business Network and GPIC should model Philadelphia as being distinguished in social entrepreneurship.
  7. Challenge large businesses based in the region to embrace corporate responsibility ethos.
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Christopher Wink

Christopher Wink is a cofounder and Editorial Director of Technical.ly, the local technology news network. Previously, Wink worked for a homeless advocacy nonprofit and was a freelance reporter for a variety of publications. He writes regularly about news innovation and best business practices on his personal blog here. The bicycle commuter loves cities, urban politics and squabbling about neighborhood boundaries.

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