The UMKC School of Law has had a long-standing commitment to working with local and national partners in advancing entrepreneurship and exploring the role of law and lawyers in entrepreneurship, innovation and economic development. A relatively new part of that mission involves social entrepreneurship, and the law school, largely through the efforts of Professor Tony Luppino, was pleased to play a significant role in bringing this important conference to Kansas City.
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), in collaboration with the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) hosted the inaugural Midwest Symposium on Social Entrepreneurship May 20-21 at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center. More than 115 people attended the two-day event, with dozens more attending the symposium reception Monday night.
Over the last two decades there has been an expanding interest in social entrepreneurship—a movement that crosses the boundaries of the business, nonprofit and public sectors. Representatives from the UMKC School of Law entrepreneurship faculty, the UMKC Henry W. Bloch School of Management’s Midwest Center for Non-Profit Leadership, the Kauffman Foundation and USASBE saw this interest and came together to organize the symposium. The shared goals were to offer a forum to help advance thinking and understanding of social entrepreneurship and to promote an exchange of knowledge and experience by facilitating discussion among businesses, non-profit practitioners, teachers, researchers, funders and community members interested in learning more about social entrepreneurship. In addition to accomplishing those goals, the symposium was also able to provide five of the eight required modules to complete the USASBE Certificate in Social Entrepreneurship, which is a program for educators interested in teaching courses on social entrepreneurship and practitioners interested in launching social ventures. Information about the certificate program can be found here.
“What started as a brainstorming session with Dean Ellen Suni, Professor Tony Luppino and members of USASBE in January of 2012, has grown into a nationally recognized certificate program in Social Entrepreneurship,” said Tony Mendes, 2014 USASBE President-Elect. “The Midwest Symposium brought together non-profit leaders, faculty who teach social entrepreneurship and some of the most highly recognized leaders in social enterprise. USASBE is proud to be part of the Midwest Symposium and honored to be part of this great collaboration.”
The symposium kicked off with opening remarks by Thom Ruhe, Vice President of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation and David Renz, Director of the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership at UMKC. Following the opening remarks, each day the Symposium consisted of several workshops focusing on social entrepreneurship, including Legal Issues in Social Entrepreneurship which more than 100 people attended. Several key players in social entrepreneurship and the Kansas City community spoke at Symposium events. These included Henry W. Bloch, Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of H&R Block; Thomas McDonnell, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; Dianne Cleaver, Executive Director of the Urban Neighborhoods Initiative; UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton; and Ellen Suni, Dean of the UMKC School of Law.
Through this series of workshops and special speakers, the Symposium was able to highlight several examples of social entrepreneurship established in or near Kansas City, many of which have national or global impact. The local ventures showcased included First Hand Foundation, the Youth Volunteer Corps, the Mission Center L3C, Smiles Change Lives, and the Arabia Steamboat Museum, Two of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s “Big 5” initiatives, The Urban Core Neighborhoods Initiative and The Making of America’s Most Entrepreneurial City, were also featured at the Symposium. Finally, as a terrific capstone event Symposium attendees had the opportunity to view several budding ventures during the inaugural Aaron L. Levitt Social Entrepreneurship Challenge. For more information about the Levitt Challenge, including venture descriptions and winners of the competition, please visit the Bloch School’s Levitt Challenge page.
Overall, organizers were extremely pleased with the success of the first offering of the Symposium and are looking forward to conducting it annually in Kansas City.
Ellen Suni, UMKC School of Law Dean, summed it up: “The Conference exceeded our expectations, both in attendance and in the quality of presentations and interaction. We are particularly appreciative of the assistance we received from the Kauffman Foundation in making everything run smoothly and seamlessly. We look forward to this becoming a regular part of our programming as we build toward creating a Center for Law and Entrepreneurship at the School of Law and continue supporting the efforts of our colleagues at the Bloch School, USASBE and the Kauffman Foundation.”