Social Enterprise Conference


School of Business’ Social Enterprise Conference Attracting Leading Scholars, Entrepreneurs and Business Owners

“We don’t hire people to bake brownies, we bake brownies to hire people,” boasts the website of Greyston Bakery of Yonkers, N.Y.

Recognized as one of the best social enterprise companies in the world, Greyston Bakery’s mission is to provide individuals with employment, skills and resources to lift them out of poverty.

Justin Nash ’14, a veteran who earned his MBA from the School of Business and is a graduate of UConn’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities program, owns his own construction company, Veteran Construction Services. He is also the founder of Til Duty is Done, an organization which serves veterans through supportive housing, employment training and employment opportunities.

Both Nash and Greyston Bakery CEO Mike Brady will be panelists at the “UConn Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship (SE2) Conference on April 23 and 24 on the Storrs campus. The Conference is co-sponsored by the Eversource Chair in Business Ethics and the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CCEI), both in the School of Business, and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at UConn.

The conference chairs are Stephen Park, professor of business law; Michelle Cote, managing director of the CCEI; and Glenn Mitoma, director of the Dodd Center.

In October 2014, Connecticut joined a growing number of states, including Massachusetts and New York, that permit for-profit corporations to expressly incorporate human rights, environmental sustainability and other social objectives into their core missions. The Secretary of the State now recognizes these “benefit corporations” as a new legal entity, providing a higher level of legal protection, accountability and transparency than exists for traditional for-profit entities.

“The idea behind the conference is to generate attention on a recent, significant trend in business in Connecticut and throughout the country,” Park said. “Benefit corporations and other forms of social enterprise present an innovative way to empower companies to act in a socially responsible way. By convening students, practitioners and scholars interested in social enterprise, we hope to step back, critically assess this trend,  and consider ways to create social value through business more effectively.”

The conference will begin on April 23 with a full day-long symposium at the School of Business in which scholars from business and other disciplines will meet to present and discuss research papers on the latest developments in social enterprise and related issues concerning the implications of social enterprise for corporate governance, corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurship.

Among the UConn School of Business participants are: Gerlinde Berger-Walliser, professor of business law; Robert Bird, professor of business law and Eversource Chair in Business Ethics; Caroline Kaeb, professor of business law and human rights; and Zeki Simsek, professor of management and Eversource Scholar in Technological Entrepreneurship. Other participants will include business professors from Belmont University, Bentley University, Georgia Tech, The University of Michigan, Oregon State University, the University of Pennsylvania, Ryerson University, Virginia Tech and Yale.

The April 24 practitioners’ conference is open to the UConn community and the general public. In addition to Brady and Nash, panelists include Spencer Curry and Kieran Foran of FRESH Farm Aquaponics; Jeff Brown, executive vice president of Newman’s Own Foundation; Vishal Patel, CEO and founder of Happy Life Coffee; State Rep. Gregg Haddad, D-Mansfield  and Sophie Faris, community development specialist at B-Lab.

The practitioner conference will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Dodd Center. Among the topics of discussion are the business landscape of social enterprise, Connecticut entrepreneurs and innovators and national leaders in social enterprise. Breakout working groups will discuss supply chains, labor rights and environmental sustainability. The morning sessions in Konover Auditorium are walk-in, but anyone planning to attend all day (including the lunch and breakout working group sessions) must pre-register.

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