For 24 years, the Social Venture Network (SVN) has been pushing back against the received wisdom of American commerce. SVN members are building better, smarter businesses with multiple bottom lines: profits, planet, people.
Four hundred progressive business leaders and social change activists convened this weekend in Philadelphia to transform the high-flying rhetoric of financial opportunity into the practical business of doing it. Notes from the "Movers, Shakers and Changemakers" conference:
Best Workshop Title: "Don't Believe What You Think." Harry Halloran, founder and president of Halloran Philanthropies, made his money from risky investments in oil. His day job is CEO of American Refining Group. Now he makes risky social investments in people.
Humbly, authentically and candidly, he reports that all entrepreneurship, including social business, is about "surviving your mistakes." To laughter in the room, he notes, "I could go on about my mistakes for hours." Then, more seriously, "I don't know how to quit. I never gave up." Aspiring social entrepreneurs, take note.
He wraps up the talk with his Four Ps Plus C. To make it, you need Passion, then Perseverance, then -- to underscore the need for perseverance -- Persistence followed by Patience. Then, you need to get Creative. Aspiring social entrepreneurs, got that?
Best Unexpected Diet Plan: Every SVN buffet and every snack bar is dominated by healthy vegan pretend food. I guess this is a culinary offset for the group's hero worship of Ben & Jerry's, the iconic progressive ice cream company which sells obesity in a cone to middle class kids prowling suburban malls.
Best Moment: Standing ovation for Doris Liberty, mother of Liberian-American Chid Liberty, CEO of Liberty & Justice. Chid's incredible social enterprise is Africa's first-ever fair trade certified apparel manufacturer. A justifiably proud mother and son!
Best Untold Story: A whip smart high net worth individual without title or organizational name tag prowling the hallways looking for viable, investable social businesses. Her laser purpose is integration of her investment portfolio into a work career as an agent of change.
Most Crucial Session: "Moving from Colorblindness to Color-Consciousness." To state the maddeningly obvious, a black American president has not done enough (nothing?) for the economic aspirations of America's growing population of color (a majority by mid-century). Race pride is not the same as racial economic power.
While Washington government gridlocks, Saru Jayaraman, Founder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (appropriately, a mouthful to say) is upending racism in the food industry, restaurant by restaurant. The goal: Assuring attractive food presentation includes the workforce as well as what's on your plate. Currently, in far too many restaurants people of color are tracked into "out of sight," lower paid, more dangerous, lower tip jobs.
Point: Every time we sit down in a restaurant, we are part of the food chain -- a social business in that moment. Spend your meal money with your values in mind.
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