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Irish explore social entrepreneurship

Mel Flanagan | Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and the Fellow Irish Social Hub (FISH) will host the inaugural Irish Impact Social Entrepreneurship Conference today and tomorrow in the Mendoza College of Business.

The conference, which begins tonight with an opening reception, aims to teach students more about what social entrepreneurship is and how they can become involved in the field.

Melissa Paulsen, program manager for the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and concurrent professor, said several entrepreneurs involved in both non-profit and for-profit work will attend the conference.

“We really wanted this to be about connecting the Notre Dame community, specifically Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students, with the social entrepreneurship practitioners,” she said.

Paulsen said she hopes students understand the range of possibilities for social entrepreneurship.

“We define entrepreneurship as starting a business but it doesn’t have to be that way,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what your background is or the interests you have or discipline of choice. You can use that experience to engage in social enterprises on many different levels.”

Students are invited to attend several workshops Friday morning that will cover the basics of social entrepreneurship, Paulsen said.

“The idea behind the workshops is to basically give the community an idea of what social entrepreneurship is, what are start-up issues and incubation issues, how do you start a social enterprise,” she said.

Different panels will address the challenges of starting such an enterprise, legal issues surrounding social entrepreneurship, international development and more, Paulsen said.

One key feature of the day will be a career panel for students interested in social entrepreneurship, which will be followed by an opportunity fair where students can personally interact with the practitioners present.

“You can ask questions like, Tell me more about your organizations,’ Tell me about your beneficiaries,’ How are you raising money?, How do you sustain yourself?,” Paulsen said. “And also, Do you have career opportunities or internships for students?.”

After the workshops, the conference will host a Taste of Michiana luncheon, where local food entrepreneurs will show off their creations.
The lunch will be followed by a presentation from the conference’s keynote speaker, Rishi Jaitly, Paulsen said. Jaitly founded Michigan Corps, has worked for Google Asia and Kiba Detroit and has been engaged in policy work, all since he graduated from the Princeton University in 2004.

His keynote speech is titled, “Choose Your own adventure: The power of embracing your social entrepreneurial self,” and will focus on the different ways students can become involved in social entrepreneurship.

“You don’t have to start a brand-new organization to be engaged in social entrepreneurship,” Paulsen said.