View From the Summit

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    I just returned from the 11th Social Enterprise Alliance Summit+ World Forum in San Francisco. A record 700+ attendees from around the world attest to the growing strength of this vibrant sector. I met folks from Canada, the UK, Australia, the Philippines, Africa, and South America.

    In an earlier blog I described social enterprise as a trillion dollar sector, and that’s just in the US. Now it feels more like a trillion kilowatts of energy, with all the electrons moving in the same direction, toward greater social impact, and in its wake, toward changing the world, one social enterprise at a time.

    So many workshops, I was only able to attend a few. One that really caught my attention involved five teenagers of color from severely economically distressed sections of East Oakland. All had experienced urban violence first hand; one of them had been shot four times. They discussed their experiences launching their own ventures, from music to groceries to recycling, in affiliation with Ashoka’s Youth Venture. All I can say is if they can do it – and they were doing it – all of us can surely succeed in our own work.

    Another workshop I attended included a presentation from RSF Social Finance, which borrows money from foundations, companies and individuals and lends it out to nonprofits to increase their social impact. They earn 90% of their costs from making those loans (goal is 100% within two years), have $70 million in outstanding loans, and have a tiny loss ratio (something like ½%).

    If you want more information about the SEA Summit, be sure to check out the conference’s blog site at: And to those flying back to their homes around the world, safe travels!