A moment of reflection on Social Enterprise and a drive to carry this movement forward, Wendy K. Baumann

In May, REDF convened a group of dedicated and talented social enterprise leaders to discuss how we can accelerate the growth of this movement to put thousands of more people to work who face barriers to employment.  We were truly energized by their accomplishments, engagement and ideas.

This piece from Wendy Baumann is the first in a series of blogs from the participants around how we can deepen the impact in the field and their reflections on the convening.

I was thrilled Carla Javits invited me to the recent convening on Scaling Social Enterprise (Los Angeles, CA – May, 2014) and found the two day gathering both provocative and filled with significant possibilities.  To begin, I have been engaged in the field of microenterprise for the past 20 years as the President/CVO of The Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiatiave Corporation (WWBIC) and before that I engaged in business and economic development for approximately ten years… this work has become a large part of my personal history!  In my first year at WWBIC I had read about the Robert’s Foundation in California and their work in social enterprise.  Soon after I read Billy Shore’s first book, The Cathedral Within, and I decided to invite him to Milwaukee for a visit….the story of my personal interest (and now WWBIC’s) thus evolved… as the social enterprise industry began we were there and my/our efforts to provide leadership in the field remains.

Our two days was truly a convening and dialogue and almost a strategic planning and formatting session.  Carla creatively framed the discussion around five key areas in need of thought and advancement:  The Know How, Talent, Market,  Capital and Policy.  A few individuals discussed their thoughts on the subject – including their experience and successes and then we grouped and regrouped sharing ideas, prioritizing them and then noting their ease or challenge in possible implementation.  THE GOAL always and ideally….easy and fast – however many were great – but would require some time and effort.

A few key take aways and probably life realizations was about the individuals there – about forty in number…they were not only leaders but (as I often put it) had that extra DNA in them.  Most had dedicated decades to truly making the world a better place; helping others in often serious need (some would say hopeless) and doing so with a business model.  Working with ex-offenders, with current and reforming drug addicts, with gang members and individuals with serious challenging conditions or physical handicaps can in and of itself give many a pause – now working with all of these groups via a business that needs to produce, perform, transact….even more interesting.  And all along it was all about – what else can we do…how can we do this on a larger scale – how can this be done faster and better.  This company was the best company in my mind and be a part of that for a few short days – a joy.

NEXT steps…stay engaged.  Not only review the notes and draft plans we created – but share them – advance them and make the time to further move this ahead. 

– President/Chief Visionary Officer (CVO) Wendy K. Baumann, in her twentieth year at the helm of WWBIC, is a nationally-recognized leader in microenterprise and financial awareness.  She has presented in venues ranging from the Global Microfinance Summit to the United Nations, and has pioneered business incubation, capital access programming, financial awareness/economic literacy, and  social entrepreneurship in Milwaukee and Wisconsin.

Wendy’s national board service includes The Association of Enterprise Opportunity, The Association of Women’s Business Centers, and the SBA Advisory Board;  regional service with Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, and locally with The Milwaukee Public Market Board, The UW-Milwaukee Alumni Board, and the Milwaukee North Shore Rotary Club.  Wendy founded  Coffee With a Conscience®  WWBIC’s social enterprise specializing in organic, fairly-traded coffee. Coffee provides earned revenue, a showcase for client retail food products, and a unique marketing vehicle for WWBIC within the for-profit community.

This is part of REDF’s Accelerating Social Enterprise Growth blog series.