Hundreds of social entrepreneurs gathered in one place for three days: Here’s what happened

A recap of Social Enterprise Alliance’s Summit ‘19

Social Enterprise Alliance
Social Enterprise Alliance
6 min readSep 17, 2019


Photo: Lauren Dekleva

There are hardly words to describe the depth of impact and connection that was Summit ’19.

For three days, there was a buzz of positive energy, healthy inquiry and debate and relationship-building between attendees that never let up.

From opening plenary to closing, Summit ’19 covered the real, candid topics about leading a social enterprise that we rarely have the space to discuss.


Summit ’19 attendees didn’t just hear about the social enterprise movement in Chicago, they saw it for themselves. Before kicking off our Opening Plenary, we sent three buses full of energized social enterprise leaders out into the city to visit, learn from and connect with local social businesses.

Center photo: Andrew Newton Photography for Cara


It was a pleasure to officially introduce toasting good, our conscious lifestyle publication and gift guide platform, to our community.

In honor of the brand’s launch, we hosted the toasting good marketplace, enjoying drinks, desserts, booths from a dozen social enterprises, a photo booth and deejay.

Check out our gallery of photo booth pictures, here.


With over 60 speakers sharing their seasoned insights, there was so much actionable information to glean from each session.

Attendees were taught best practices for using capital and approaching debt from leading funders like RSF Social Finance, REDF, Stand Together Foundation and Bank of America.

LH photo: Andrew Newton Photography for Cara

Digital marketing leaders Briteweb and Shopify each led in-depth workshops on building captivating brand personalities and marketing your social enterprise.

SAP and Social Enterprise UK joined forces to discuss the “trillion dollar opportunity” present at the intersection of social enterprise products and B2B markets.

Brands with products in Whole Foods and Target, got real about what it takes to prepare your product for Big Retail partnerships and shared their secrets for getting your foot in the door with buyers.


Opportunities are everywhere. You must always let your hook be hanging, and when you least expect it, a great fish will swim by. — A frequent saying of Jim Schorr‘s, quoted by Carla Javits in Jim’s memory.

“Laughter and humor are an important part of recovery” — Hal Cato, Thistle Farms

“If we’re doing our jobs correctly, I’m irrelevant. All that matters if we’re meeting the needs of the populations we serve.” — Chad Houser, Cafe Momentum

Top Left and Bottom Middle Image: Lauren Dekleva

It was powerful to see women social entrepreneurs leading the charge at Summit ’19. Our Opening Plenary featured an all-female panel discussing the hard truths of the society we live in today and social enterprise’s place in the changing landscape.

On day two, another all-female panel led a nuanced discussion on instilling confidence in your communities, the stigmas these communities face and how to measure growth in agency, self-esteem and hope.

Attendees also had the pleasure of hearing from Jahkil Jackson, 12-year-old founder of Project I Am and nationally recognized by the likes of Obama and Nike, Inc. who shared the motivation behind his work during our closing plenary.

“My middle name is Naeem, which means to give without receiving back, so it’s kind of in me to give back.” — Jahkil Jackson

These takeaways just barely scratch the surface of the Summit ’19 experience. Click here to follow the threads of conversation about Summit ’19 on Twitter.

Summit ’19 was jam packed and powerful.

There were plenty of “full-circle” moments that will stick with us; like seeing Jim Schorr Scholar and social entrepreneur Darius Ballinger take the stage after a poignant tribute to Jim to emcee the opening day of Summit.

As fellow Jim Schorr scholarship recipients stood to be recognized, it was powerful to witness a room full of Jim’s colleagues and friends see his legacy live on.

“Entrepreneurship has always been apart of who I was as a person…Chasing23 [Youth Empowerment Group] was my why. It was my bat light in Gotham city. It showed that someone who came from a place like me, a man like me, could overcome” — Darius Ballinger

Photos: Lauren Dekleva

Beyond deep moments of reflection, we were blown away by the energy during the conference as strangers became friends, mentors and business connections. We received a wealth of comments describing this as “the best membership community [they’ve] ever been a part of” “extremely helpful and valuable” and “the best place for making connections.”

Summit ’19 was all we could have hoped for and truly lived up to our intention to create a space for you to find support, encouragement and deeper meaning for your work.

From our team at Social Enterprise Alliance, we are sending a big thank you to those who attended, as well as our speakers and sponsors and the host committee that helped bring Summit ’19 to life.

You showed up, and Summit ’19 was only made possible by your commitments.


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Social Enterprise Alliance
Social Enterprise Alliance

Social Enterprise Alliance is the champion and key catalyst for the development of the social enterprise sector in the United States.