A buoyancy filled Middlebury’s Bread Loaf campus last Monday as educators gathered for the Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s third annual June Forum, titled “Lessons and Opportunities: A Faculty and Staff Forum on Teaching Social Entrepreneurship.”
In total, over 120 educators from across the country gathered at the Forum. This year, schools in attendance included MIT, Bucknell, Cornell, Amherst, St. Michaels, Clark, Hamilton, Solebury, Hobart and William Smith, Pomona, Dartmouth, George Mason, Bennington, Earth University, Semester at Sea, Westminster, Westmont, San Diego, Latin School, Gould Academy, Gallaudet, Mt Holyoke, Bates, Champlain, Columbia, Georgetown, U Maine, Virginia, Ashoka, Middlebury, and Monterey.
Compared to previous years, “We had the highest percentage of faculty attendance and the most diverse group of participants,” explained Jon Isham, Faculty Director of the CSE. “ It was our best forum ever.”
This year’s forum kicked off with an energetic dialogue between Marina Kim, Cofounder and Executive Director of AshokaU, and Jonathan Lewis, Scholar in Residence at the NYU Reynolds Program. The barn buzzed as Marina and Jonathan shared their insights on current trends in social entrepreneurship education, sparking conversations that lingered into the night. Some participants engaged attendees from the Orion Environmental Writer’s Conference, who cohabited Bread Loaf campus for the week.
On Tuesday morning, Middlebury President Ronald Liebowitz formally welcomed participants. Ron painted a picture of Middlebury’s culture of creativity, highlighting the importance of engaged learning for today’s liberal arts student and global citizen.
Anke Wessels, Executive Director of Cornell’s Center for Transformative Action, built upon Ron’s introduction, presenting on “Developing Rigorous Methods for Assessing Experiential Learning and Reflection.” Both university and high school educators appreciated reading Anke’s syllabi.
Jon Isham followed, presenting his findings on “Preparing Students for Field Work and Projects: Evidence from the Projects for Peace.” Sharing the stage with Phil Geier, Executive Director of the Davis United World College program at Middlebury, Isham shared the essential ingredients of a successful social entrepreneurship project: knowledge of the local language, beneficiary involvement, and collaboration with a local organization, to name just a few.
Forum participants then congregated in the barn classrooms for early afternoon workshops. Bob Bloch, Director of BYOBiz at Champlain College, shared his vision on “The Entrepreneurship Side of Social Entrepreneurship.” David Colander, Middlebury economics professor, added his pragmatic insights on “Equipping Social Entrepreneurs with the Tools They Need.” Meanwhile, Jon Isham led a roundtable on social entrepreneurship in secondary education. Topher and Jorian Wilkins, CEO and COO of the Opportunity Collaboration, rounded out the lineup with a discussion about their program.
Tuesday afternoon allowed time for participants to gather their thoughts, explore the area or hold group planning sessions. Sara Daly of the Vermont Wellness Professionals Network also led a much-appreciated wellness workshop.
Rested and revived, participants gathered to conclude the day with a talk by Dave Torres, Director of Business for Mothers2Mothers. Dave’s presentation, titled “Using Skills from the Corporate World to Scale a Social Enterprise,” hit home for the many educators in attendance who have drawn experience from the corporate world to impact social change.
Folks gathered on Wednesday morning for a social planning and feedback session. Using both a pinwheel rotation and a large circle format, participants networked individually and shared their reflections in a large group setting.
Though this marked the end of the CSE Forum programming, Middlebury Dean of the College, Shirley Collado, welcomed participants to the additional 2-day Echoing Green Work on Purpose training. Forum participants, joined by a new cadre of student educators and mentors, engaged in workshops that demonstrated the main principles of Work on Purpose: Right for You, Good for the World, and Be Bold. Folks from different institutions challenged themselves to think about how to identify opportunities, challenges and actions they can take to bring Work on Purpose to their current work with students.
Marina Kim shared her thoughts on the Forum at the end of the week: “From a field-building perspective, it holds a very unique and important space in advancing more sophisticated conversations, knowledge and relationships in a growing network, and developing the richness of a more intimate environment for learning and relating.”
The CSE team extends a hearty thank you to participants, workshop leaders, Echoing Green facilitators, and the Bread Loaf staff for making this a week to remember.