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Education Steps Up to the Challenge

Midwest Symposium promotes and celebrates social entrepreneurship

Social impact takes more than good intentions. There is a science to maximizing impact, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City is a leader in the development and teaching of that science.

As a testament to that belief, the university recently hosted a two-day symposium on social entrepreneurship to advance social entrepreneurship, its thinking, its teaching and its practice.

“Teach giving back, social entrepreneurship,” said UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton. “UMKC is not shy about encouraging and promoting entrepreneurship in a city that has entrepreneurship as one of its top priorities.”

A collaboration of the UMKC School of Law and Bloch School of Management, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, the 2014 Midwest Symposium on Social Entrepreneurship brought together 150 national – and some international – registrants, educators and practitioners of social entrepreneurship to promote an exchange of knowledge and experience.

The symposium sparked discussion among business and nonprofit practitioners, teachers, researchers and funders interested in sharing and shaping ideas focused on successful social entrepreneurship.

Symposium speakers included numerous leaders in the Kansas City area, including Kansas City Mayor Sly James; Jan Kreamer, Chair of the Kauffman Foundation Board of Directors; Tom McDonnell, President/CEO of the Kauffman Foundation; Thom Ruhe, Vice President of Entrepreneurship of the Kauffman Foundations; Peter de Silva, the leader of the Greater KC Chamber of Commerce “Making Kansas City America’s Most Entrepreneurial City” movement; and  Robert Lang, widely acknowledged as the creator of the “L3C” (one of the recently emerging forms of business organization for social ventures).

Workshop sessions included Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship, Identifying and Assessing Social Entrepreneurship Opportunities, Measuring the Impact of Social Ventures, Legal Issues in Social Entrepreneurship, among many topics.

In addition to workshops and luncheon presentations, the Aaron L. Levitt Social Entrepreneurship Challenge featured a business plan competition, showcasing social entrepreneurship initiatives developed by six teams of student participants.

“Social entrepreneurship is hard work. To guide a board and a staff is a subtle art that takes great leadership,” said Jan Kreamer, chairman of the board of Kauffman Foundation. “When creating a social change venture, ask yourself what you’re doing. Make sure it’s an investable idea.”

The Levitt Challenge is designed to stimulate social entrepreneurship and innovative civic leadership in the Kansas City region, enabling the next generation of civic leaders and social entrepreneurs to serve our community.

Planned and administered by the Bloch School’s Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership, the teams also were mentored by the Center. And, there were elements of collaboration between the Schools of Law and Bloch as part of the Challenge.

Several of the teams took advantage of the interaction with the two new Law School social entrepreneurship/social venture courses offered during the spring semester.

The Levitt teams presented their plans before a panel of judges and the audience. Three teams were selected as “Changemakers” based on feasibility and potential long-term community benefit and impact. The Changemakers selected were:

Kim Wilson Housing

Kim Wilson Housing, Inc. is dedicated to delivering innovative housing solutions and building better communities. To further this goal, KWH is developing new strategies for social investors to finance housing for at-risk populations receiving social services. Investors may choose from a variety of investment levels that can provide returns that meet their personal needs and benefit the populations in need of housing.

Artists Helping the Homeless

Artists Helping the Homeless, Inc., was founded by Kar Y. Woo in February 2008, using the sale of art to fund a Sunday night meal program for homeless in the Plaza and Midtown area. While walking his dog, Woo noticed students serving dinner to the homeless and he joined them. He learned of the needs and challenges confronting the homeless, and realized that community resources could address many of those problems before they became costly – and sometimes painful – emergencies.

Madam President Camp

The camp educates and empowers young women throughout the United States while promoting a life-long interest in civic responsibility. Madam President Camp is a nonprofit day camp where young women ages 10-14 years old are taught about women in local and national politics and public service. Participants hear first-hand accounts from women in political and government positions, and learn the different roles women play in government.

The other teams that presented were:

  • Wild Restoration
  • Children of Incarcerated Parents
  • Trauma Matters

| Wandra Brooks Green, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications


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