Social enterprise and impact investing, as a modern flavor of entrepreneurship, builds on a long tradition in DC of solving problems and pursuing new ideas. As the warm and sunny weeks of summer speed by, I’m beginning to ponder how to stay involve with the concepts learned in the Frontier Market Scout program when I return to the regular working routine.
Like an electromagnetic pulse, abbreviated as EMP, this summer has been a short burst of energy which I hope will propel me into a new direction. My version of EMPs is based on the four areas I hope to explore as options to stay connected to entrepreneurship after this program ends: education, mentoring, pro bono work, or social networking activities.
Education – Clearly enormous resources are dedicated at educational institutions to teach, promote, and research entrepreneurship. As a graduate of a joint program between a Canadian and U.S. business school, automatically alumni options are available to stay connected. Current students are more interested in business concepts because of the ability to have a positive social impact. Therefore, Cornell is promoting an across campus perspective of entrepreneurship at the undergraduate level. Even my high school now offers entrepreneurial courses. Opportunities abound in the student (of all ages) entrepreneurial space!
Mentoring – Dollars help grow a business idea but a huge amount of knowledge sharing may be more beneficial in the early stages. Mentoring is a key part of the incubators, hubs, accelerators, and every other program that supports entrepreneurs. Board members or advisory members may eventually get compensation but, shockingly, a lot of opportunities exist for free knowledge sharing resources. Just looking in the DC area I see a variety of organizations which may be worth volunteering with, examples: Empowered Women International, Score, and Global Alliance.
Pro Bono – Taproot Foundation has a well-known pro bono movement but surprisingly a lot of job classifies list “volunteer jobs” that require specific skills for startups (particularly in microfinance and the social enterprise space). DC traditionally has an army of low cost summer interns but who knew that so much other work gets done for free (or minimal compensation). Whether it is doing due diligence for Beyond Capital Management or scouting future teams for the next Civic Accelerator, all sorts of pro bono options exist for helping entrepreneurs and nonprofits while using your specific expertise.
Social Networking – Beyond Village Capital Mondays, DC has meetups galore around social enterprise and entrepreneurship. For years, I’ve highly recommended Net Impact events. This summer I’ve learned there are A LOT of events to be found here. Conferences, conventions, and special events, including Entrepreneurship Week in October, are just the tip of the iceberg. The opportunities mushroom if you include international development events within the scope of social enterprise. So check out Facebook, Twitter, Google groups, Meetup, and all the other internet sources to find an event near you!
As I ponder how to allocate my time across the EMPS options, it is crystal clear that I should be able to stay connected to the social enterprise space and entrepreneurship long after FMS is a distant memory.