To spur more socially-minded ventures in the metro, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and University of Missouri-Kansas City are teaming up to host the fifth-annual Midwest Symposium on Social Entrepreneurship.
Set for May 15 and 16, the two-day event will welcome about 125 attendees from the region, offering workshops, panel discussions and speakers.
Tony Luppino, director of entrepreneurship programs at the UMKC School of Law and a symposium organizer, said that social ventures can come in all shapes and sizes.
“We’re trying to cover the whole range,” Luppino said. “As you’ll see in the program, social missions can happen in nonprofit entities, traditional charitable organizations, big companies, startup ventures and recently-emerged hybrid forms of business organization.”
Luppino said that the symposium will offer modules for people with a variety of experience levels and backgrounds. Over the symposium’s five-year history, organizers have made an effort to stay current with trends in Kansas City entrepreneurship. Luppino said that this year, ecosystem building is a hot topic.
“Each year we’ve added some new content but kept some modules the same, such as the ‘Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship’ module,” Luppino said. “Last year we focused on digital inclusion and digital equity. Community building and the concept of a social entrepreneurship ecosystem is currently a big theme in Kansas City.”
Luppino said he hopes the event will strengthen Kansas City’s foothold as a leader in social entrepreneurship.
“Social innovation is about bringing the creativity and planning that entrepreneurs are accustomed to and applying it to ventures that are designed to solve social problems,” Luppino said. “It’s about elevating social purposes.”
Speakers at the event include Andy Stoll, senior program officer at the Kauffman Foundation, Kate Garman, innovation analyst with Kansas City, Mo., Alan Howze, chief knowledge officer with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., and more.
On May 16, the symposium culminates with a pitch competition among UMKC students — the Aaron L. Levitt Social Entrepreneurship Challenge. The semester-long program enables students to establish a socially-focused venture, and the symposium challenge allows them to present their ideas to a panel of investors.
“There is no money involved, but they will learn how to talk to funders and what information they would need to tell them to get funded,” said Cindy Laufer, director of the Levitt Challenge. “After the pitches if we feel that their idea is developed enough that it could become a reality, then we elevate them to ‘changemaker status.’”
Cindy Laufer said that these changemakers will garner support from UMKC for a year with mentorship and office space.
On May 15, the program will be held at the Kansas City-based Kauffman Foundation. The symposium will continue on May 16 at the Henry W. Bloch Executive Hall for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. For more information about the event and to sign up, click here.
Luppino said he’s thankful for team and organizations that have made the symposium possible, including the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, David Renz director of the Midwest Center for Nonprofits Leadership and Tony Mendes, associate director of the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation in the Henry W. Bloch School of Management.
If you’re interested in this topic, check out this Startland guest column piece from 2015 in which founder of Social Change Nation Josh Schukman explained why he believes Kansas City is the capital of social entrepreneurship.