By Emily Winslow, JVA Consulting

Van Jones delivers the Keynote at the Social Enterprise Alliance Summit.

I recently had the chance to spend Social Enterprise Week in Minnesota at the Social Enterprise Alliance Summit in Minneapolis—and it did not disappoint. The summit was a great experience to cap off the work we’ve been doing at JVA to develop a Social Enterprise Academy curriculum that is cutting edge. Guess what? Through talking with other professionals at the summit, I learned that JVA is one of the only organizations offering a comprehensive and robust social enterprise training program in the country!

The conference was jam packed with social enterprise professionals from all over the country and even a few from Europe. Colorado’s own Tamra Ryan of Women’s Bean Project and Jim Fruchterman of Benetech did a great job of emceeing the conference. Van Jones, the keynote speaker (and frequent CNN commentator), delivered an inspiring speech saying that only in a breakdown can we have a break through, charging U.S. social entrepreneurs to reinvent the economy with a mission of purpose. Deborah Alvarez-Rodriguez, the former CEO of Goodwill Industries (one of the first American social enterprises) gave an inspiring talk on transformational leadership in which she dubbed social entrepreneurs the new superheroes.

I was able to attend a variety of workshops on topics that ranged from defining the social enterprise sphere to social impact bonds. In one of the sessions, I won a group “pitch session” for social enterprise in government and received a copy of REDF’s The Athena Doctrine as a prize! I was able to attend talks on the diverse markets for social enterprise, how to build a social enterprise portfolio and policy-focused social impact bonds for systems change. There wasn’t a lot of down time, but I did get to meet social entrepreneurs who are making a difference in their communities from Alaska to Portugal.  I unsuccessfully tried to convince Jacquie Berglund of FINNEGANS Inc. (a charitable beer company!) and Lee Wallace of Peace Coffee to come back with me to Colorado and open up facilities. In heading to the Twin Cities, I was also able to get to know some of our Colorado friends better like the Tibetan Village Project, Colorado State University and Larimer County Workforce, which all had representatives in attendance.

Inspired by all that I learned about the good we can make through social enterprise, I want to leave you with the words of Social Enterprise Alliance President Kevin Lynch, who said, “strength to your sword arm and honey to your heart.” Or, in other words, love is stronger than greed and we should take the radical step of building an economy on love.  Clearly, I’ve been put to task and there’s a lot of work to do now that I am back from the summit, but I am invigorated after getting to know so many entrepreneurs making a difference around the country and learning about innovative practices in the sector. I hope that you were able to follow my journey through Twitter. Stay tuned—I will be sharing tips and lessons I picked up at the summit in future JVA Social Enterprise Newsletters.

Does this idea of social entrepreneurship get you excited?! Join the movement. Start your journey by registering for JVA’s Are You Ready for Social Enterprise? training on June 26, or really ramp-up your social enterprise with our groundbreaking Social Enterprise Academy on September 16-20. If you don’t live in Denver, don’t worry! We can customize and bring the Academy to you! Contact to learn more.