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The Buzzworthy De Roulet Conference

March 3, 2009

by Emily Meinhardt
The Buzzworthy De Roulet Conference

Social entrepreneurship.  Definitely one of the latest and greatest buzzwords (buzzphrase?  buzzconcept? errrr...) of recent times. Such was the theme of this year's Kravis De Roulet Conference, an annual gathering sponsored by our very own Kravis Leadership Institute.  Held last Friday in downtown LA, the conference was essentially a couple different moderated discussions about social entrepreneurship, focusing on topics like, "Social Challenges-- Business Opportunities" and "Public Ventures-- Government Fostered Social Entrepreneurship."

Henry Kravis, the conference's keynote speaker (CMC '67, Kravis Leadership Institute's namesake, and KKR founding partner), delivered a lunchtime address on "Investing in Social Enterprises."  His biggest point was that social investing should be done in the same way as for profit investing-- do your due diligence.

If you have any interest or experience in nonprofits or if you're going after one of the much coveted sponsored internship grants from Career Services, you may have found the days discussions particularly worthwhile.  True CMCers were there trying to network with some of the biggest names in the game-- Ashoka and Ethos Water were there in full force.  Also attending were Kravis Prize winners from the last two years, Roy Prosterman (Rural Development Institute) and Christiana Thorpe (FAWE).

Couldn't give up a Friday at the pool to attend conference?  Here are some of the big ideas from the day:

-Lots of organizations find it hard to stay true to their original mission because funding opportunities become available (grants, foundations, private donors) that don't quite fit their real mission, but are so tempting that organizations will make exceptions, plan projects just to get the funding.  Bottom line:  Your mission should be dynamic, but you should stick to your original goals.

-"What I lacked in skills I made up for in determination-- because of the kids."  Faye Washington, CEO of the YWCA of Greater Los Angeles said this about taking on a massive construction/land acquiring/government leasing project to build new facilities for the YWCA to provide safe, affordable housing.

-It's risky to use public funding for social entrepreneurial ventures because if the idea doesn't work out, you've wasted taxpayer money.  Bottom line:  Distinction between risk and innovation could be a good rubric for determining if government support is worthwhile.

-"Do what you love." Paul Rice, President and CEO of TransFair USA gave us this gem-- if only it were so simple.

-In almost all social entrepreneurial ventures, it's not the product or what you're selling that matters.  Bottom line: your social mission is your biggest asset.

-Joel Fleishman=awesome.  Besides being a great public speaker, he wrote a book that might come in handy for anyone studying/writing about nonprofits (sponsored internship papers anyone?)  He's a Duke professor who came to speak at the Ath last year about his book The Foundation: a Great American Secret: How Private Wealth is Changing the World. If you've ever worked at a small nonprofit struggling for funding, done grant writing, etc or you're interested the development (ie, fundraising) side of nonprofits,  you'll really enjoy this book.

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