'Getting Society Un-Stuck' is Role of Social Entrepreneurs, Says Luncheon Keynote Dr. Cheryl Dorsey

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

BlogEnduring social problems call for new approaches and solutions, ones that break down existing silos and build new models of public and private co-operation to effect sustainable change. That was the message of Dr. Cheryl Dorsey, President of Echoing Green, who delivered the keynote address at Donors Forum's Annual Luncheon on June 21.

The Luncheon, held annually, is the region's premier networking and educational event for staff members, volunteers, and advisors engaged in philanthropy, nonprofits, and social ventures. Almost 600 people attended this year's event.

View photos from the Luncheon here.

Echoing Green, a pioneer in the social entrepreneurship movement, is a global social venture fund that has awarded more than $30 million in start-up capital to more than 500 next-generation social entrepreneurs worldwide since 1987.

Dr. Dorsey focused her remarks on social enterprise, describing social entrepreneurs as “those who recognize when a part of society has gotten stuck and work to get it un-stuck, changing the solution and getting people to change systems.” Social entrepreneurs can play a prime role in building needed solutions, Dr. Dorsey said, and she highlighted the tremendous growth of social entrepreneurship in recent years. Many more publications, more university classes, and more jobs address this issue than they did just ten years earlier, she pointed out.

Social enterprise crosses sector borders as part of a recognition that existing approaches aren’t working. “The whole notion of a blended or blurred approach stems from the realization that profound social problems outpace our ability to address them,” Dr. Dorsey said. She added that new systems are needed, and social enterprises are nimble and flexible enough to help develop these new systems.

The right solution to complex problems will not materialize instantly, and experimentation and risk are important parts of social enterprise, Dr. Dorsey said. She emphasized that failure in social enterprise can be an important step toward eventual success. “Smart failures are a critical part of the nascent social entrepreneur’s journey,” she said, adding that it is important to embrace learning from failures to “remove the shame and stigma that so many high-achieving young people place on stumbling.”

Millennials will be an important part of the growing social enterprise movement, and Dr. Dorsey expressed confidence in their potential to lead. She said, “This is the moment to think about how our institutions will attract millennials, how we will train them, and how we will retain this cadre of next-generation change agents.”

Dr. Dorsey concluded her remarks by emphasizing the importance to everyone of aligning their head, their heart, and their energy toward the contributions they can make to the world. It may take time for people to learn how they can best use their talents and their passion, but when they align all the elements, they have an extraordinary potential for impact, she said.

~ Jason Hardy, Member Services Support, Donors Forum

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The Chicago Community Trust

Exelon Corporation

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation


Gold Sponsors

The Boeing Company
Crown Family Philanthropies
Robert R. McCormick Foundation
Mondelēz International
Northern Trust
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Walgreen Co. 

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Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation
The Joyce Foundation
Quarles & Brady LLP
United Airlines

Bronze Sponsors

Bank of America
Baxter International Inc.
Crowe Horwath LLP
D5 Coalition
The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
Duchossois Family Foundation
The Hillshire Brands Company
Kellogg School of Management, Center for Nonprofit Management
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Steans Family Foundation

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Alexander Macnab & Co.
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Foundation Source
Lloyd "Chip" Fry and the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation
Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana
Metropolitan Group
Mission Measurement LLC
Plante Moran
Strategic Philanthropy, Ltd.
Watershed Capital Group