Summit15: A Mindful Approach to Social Enterprise
If you’re visiting Denver for Summit15, why not visit Boulder, too? Both Denver and Boulder are known for their spirit of enterprise and passion for social responsibility, and each city feeds off the other’s vibrancy and innovative energy. Boulder is located at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, just 35 minutes from Denver, and has long been known for its entrepreneurial roots. The Unreasonable Institute calls Boulder its home, and Naropa University was founded in Boulder in 1974.
Naropa University is a Buddhist-inspired, student-centered liberal arts university and a recognized leader in contemplative education—with programs focusing on professional and personal growth, intellectual development and contemplative practice. Participants attending Summit15 will have the opportunity to attend a post conference daylong retreat at the university’s Authentic Leadership Center. Check out the interview below with Naropa University’s President, Charles Lief. You’ll find more information on Naropa’s daylong retreat, the area’s history of entrepreneurship and a bit more insight into social enterprise today.
What does the daylong retreat at Naropa University entail?
Lief — About 1,100 students are enrolled at Naropa University in Boulder, and here we focus on contemplative education and career-oriented training. Through our Authentic Leadership Center, we offer a 15-week certificate program. This program gives participants the opportunity to train experientially and to work with leaders in the fields of for-profit and nonprofit enterprise and public service. The program offers a perspective on leadership practices that foster self-awareness, compassion and confidence in challenging times. Our daylong retreat will give participants a taste of what the 15-week certificate program offers. During the retreat, which will also include offerings from the creative arts, participants will have the opportunity to experience leadership in a different light and to engage with others more directly. The retreat will be both an intense and a unique personal experience.
What makes Colorado the optimal destination for Summit15?
Lief — Historically speaking, Social Enterprise Alliance is coming full circle by hosting Summit15 in Colorado this year. The organization began in 1998 from a gathering of practitioners in Colorado Springs. Back then, the social enterprise field was just emerging, and nonprofits were looking to create earned income as a means of becoming less reliant on philanthropic support. Over the years, it became clear that silos were breaking down and that both nonprofits and for-profit organizations alike were addressing similar mission-driven issues. Both types of organizations needed support, and that support has definitely grown. For example, the B Corporation movement is huge in Colorado and very effective. There are also a number of local labs and organizations that provide support and resources for social entrepreneurs. The spirit of social enterprise is strong and vibrant in both Denver and Boulder.
Could you tell us a little more about what makes Naropa unique in the social enterprise arena?
Lief — Mindfulness is found everywhere now, including the cover of Time Magazine. Naropa has 41 years of experience as a university teaching mindfulness and contemplative practices as integral tools for learning across disciplines. Our faculty has a wide variety of ways in which contemplative education is presented in their own classrooms, and in all cases it is built into the curriculum and not added on. Students everywhere are increasingly passionate about social enterprise, and this comes at a time when the issue of leadership succession is so important. We are fortunate to have an academic platform to work on issues in social enterprise. We have the opportunity to train the new generation of social entrepreneurs—and it is a huge responsibility. Naropa is pleased to be a place to attract excellent faculty who bring the tools to train the type of creative people that my colleagues who created and manage social enterprises worldwide will be excited to hire.
What are the main opportunities for social entrepreneurs today?
Lief — Now is a great time to be involved in social enterprise. There are more options to create or join companies and organizations throughout all economic sectors that have deeply rooted social missions. The opportunities to use social enterprise as a vehicle for effective benefit have never been greater. Nonprofits and NGOs still play an essential role in catalyzing social change, but now for-profit models with the real possibility of growing mission-driven companies to scale can be found around the world. Employers in many sectors understand what social enterprise means, and they are much more likely to appreciate a degree or certification in social enterprise and leadership than they were even a few years ago. Also, there are hundreds of thousands of social entrepreneurs across the world that are determined to be relevant and want to make their organizations sustainable. These entrepreneurs will be looking for younger social entrepreneurs that have that same passion, and that’s exciting.
Written by Anna Upchurch from the fabulous team at JVA Consulting.