Campus Hosts Social Entrepreneurship Event

The cold and icy weather conditions of Thursday, February 25 called for the postponement or cancellation of many Colgate events. For senior Josh McLane, however, Thursday marked the first day of a two-day event almost a year in the making.

Throughout the year, McLane used the combined help of Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson, Interim Provost, Dean of the Faculty and Professor of History Jill Harsin, Director of the Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Education (COVE) Ingrid Hale and staff at the Center for Career Services to raise the funds needed to bring the concept of social entrepreneurship to Colgate. Wilford Welch, a Yale University graduate of the class of 1961 and David Hopkins, a Middlebury College alumnus in the class of 2006, author and contributing editor, respectively, of Tactics of Hope: How Social Entrepreneurs are Changing our World kicked off a two-day event where they planned to inspire Colgate students to “do well” through “doing good” and give them the tools needed to do so.

As far as McLane was concerned, the idea of social entrepreneurship and the students of Colgate University seemed like a perfect fit. According to McLane, as a liberal arts institution, “Colgate has resources.” McLane expressed his hope to see a shift to “student-run” initiatives and the adoption of a social change movement.

Welch and Hopkins held a lecture Thursday night that built on that sentiment. Each began by describing their personal background. Although they have led very different lives, their “intergeneration collaboration,” as Welch and Hopkins define their relationship, is held together by a love of international relations and a vision of making a difference. Welch’s story, which included traveling around the world, creating a worldwide newspaper and founding the Quest for Global Healing, opened him up to the knowledge of the willingness of the next generation and how many people are globally aware “but don’t know how to take the next step.”

The significance of the next-generation leaders, the generation of people aged 15 to 35, is a shift in the role of players creating a “shift in values.” Welch encouraged the new generation to not just complain about the power of governments and corporations but to use the opportunity to “change the old guard.” Hopkins showed how changing the players led to a reconciliation of competition and collaboration generating brand new careers.

“We are inventing ourselves out of the mess,” Hopkins said of changing this “old guard.”

Combining the changing role of players and the altering of values is the ultimate creation of social entrepreneurs.

Welch said that “doing well by doing good” is “the fastest growing movement” of individuals today. Like a business entrepreneur, the social entrepreneur is an innovator. However, the social entrepreneur combines the problems of the social and environmental world to bring about a “self-sustaining” solution.

In a world filled with crises such as poverty, overpopulation, natural resource overconsumption and global climate change, the prospect of a self-sustaining blend of social, environmental and business elements might appear to be a radical concept. Welch and Hopkins, however, offered proof that ranged from “The Buried Life” on MTV to the Global Health Corps to Open Action, a platform co-founded by a Colgate graduate in an effort to connect projects throughout the world. Social entrepreneurship is a movement already well underway. The next step is bringing this fast growing

movement directly to the Colgate student body.

Friday marked the second part of Welch and Hopkins’ event, a workshop in Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology to discuss a five-step process towards “doing well by doing good.” The speakers addressed personal questions important to each student involved at the workshop leading towards a personal mission statement and ultimately a potential career choice. The workshop included descriptions of realistic, available jobs and provided students with a packet of contact information for various organizations.

While the Thursday night lecture inspired and provided proof that students can both be successful and change the world, Friday offered personalized tools that shed light on social entrepreneurship as a realistic and very relevant path for Colgate students to embark on.