WSU School of Social Work to host first-ever social entrepreneurship conference

As part of its commitment to providing social entrepreneurship training and content, the School of Social Work at Wayne State University, OptimizeWayne, the Association of Black Student Social Workers student chapter, and the Alumni Board Association of the School of Social Work are hosting their first-ever social entrepreneurship conference, “Social Entrepreneurship: The Emerging Role of Social Innovation and Social Enterprise in Southeast Michigan”, on Wayne State's main campus. 

The conference will begin with opening remarks and a plenary session from 8:45 - 9:30 am on Defining and Advancing Social Enterprise in Michigan's Legacy Cities presented by Steve Wolbert and Jason Ball from Social Impact Philanthropy & Investment (SIPI), followed by two “tracks” that participants can choose from. 

  • Track 1: Best Practices in Social Enterprise and Social Innovation. This track is designed for participants who want to learn more about social entrepreneurship in general, and how concepts, models and methods of social enterprise and innovation have been applied in practice. The track features two panel presentations with area leaders and innovators across the nonprofit, commercial and public sectors who will discuss how they have employed social enterprise and social innovation in practice, lessons they have learned in addressing protracted social challenges, and future goals and directions. 
  • Track 2: Social Venture Planning and Business Development Services. This track is designed for participants who desire to start or grow a social enterprise. The track features several concurrent workshops designed to increase participants business planning knowledge, skills and abilities, and to link participants with available community resources.

Attendees may also "mix and match" workshops and panel discussions and attend sessions from both tracks 1 and 2 if they prefer. Pre-registration for the event is required by March 13, 2018.


DATE & TIME: Friday, April 6, 2018 from 8 am - 2 pm

LOCATION: Wayne State University Student Center (5221 Gullen Mall, Detroit, MI 48202)

AUDIENCE: All are welcome!

COST: FREE for Wayne State students and $10 for non-student attendees

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Visit the Eventbright page here or contact Tamarie Willis at (313) 577-4409 or


  • 8:00 - 8:30 am  Registration
  • 8:30 - 8:45am  Opening Remarks 
  • 8:45- 9:30 am  Plenary Session 
  • 9:30 - 9:45 am  Break
  • 9:45 - 11:00 am  Panel or Workshop (see options below)
  • 11:00 - 12:00 pm  Lunch/Exhibitor Fair
  • 12:15 - 1:30 pm  Panel or Workshop (see options below)
  • 1:30 - 2:00 pm  Closing Session

Attendees will indicate their choice of panel and/or workshops listed below during the registration process. 

9:45 - 11:00 AM

  • Enterprising Nonprofits (panel presentation - track 1). Panel presentation by area not-for-profit leaders who are addressing social challenges in enterprising ways. Panelists will share how they have created innovative programming to address protracted social problems and maximized their social impact. Panelists: John Van Camp, President & CEO, Southwest Solutions, Maha Freij, Deputy Director, ACCESS, Daniel Varner, President & CEO, Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit. Moderated by Jeff Stoltman, Director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programs, Associate Professor of Marketing at the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University.
  • Forming your for-profit, nonprofit, or social enterprise & working with independent contractors (workshop - track 2). Want to start a community organization, small business, or social enterprise? Do you know the legal difference between independent contractor and employees? This workshop provides easy to understand explanations of confusing legal topics for people who are interested in starting or growing a social enterprise. The workshop will start with a general overview of different entities for those looking to start an organization, and then focus on explaining differences between independent contractors and employees and the consequences of classifying a person as one or the other. The workshop will be presented by student attorneys (under the supervision of an experienced and licensed attorney) in the Wayne State University Law School Business and Community Law Clinic. This workshop is limited to 40 participants.
  • Urban Entrepreneurship (workshop - track 2). Success commercial entrepreneur and innovator, David Tarver, who currently serves as Senior Counselor to the Provost for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Wayne State University will lead this workshop. Mr. Tarver is also founder and board president of the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative. He will share models and best practices in planning new, and growing existing, social change ventures in urban settings. This workshop is limited to 40 participants.
  • OptimizeWayne: “Why not me?” Fostering Student-led Social Innovation(workshop - track 2). Students on the Wayne State campus are exploring how to put their social innovation ideas into practice with the help of a student-led group called OptimizeWayne. Limi Sharif, co-founder of OptimizeWayne will share how this group is equipping Wayne State students with the requisite knowledge and skills to succeed in launching their social change venture. She will share highlights of their signature Social Innovation Challenge that offers teams an opportunity to receive up to $10,000 in seed prizes, access to resources such as a network of mentors, workshops, and a community invested in creating positive change to help students succeed. This workshop is limited to 40 participants.

12:15 pm – 1:30 PM 

  • Social Innovation across Nonprofit, Commercial and Public Sectors (panel presentation - track 1). Social innovators across sectors are looking for new and creative ways to address protracted social challenges. Panelists will share their experiences in addressing the root causes of social problems. Social change agents will discuss ending the criminalization of poverty, improving relations among public safety officers and citizens, and other innovative social change models. Panelists: Jayesh Patel, President and Managing Attorney of Street Democracy, Detective Robert Cook, City of Oak Park Michigan Public Safety Moderated by Anwar Najor-Durack, Assistant Professor, Clinical and Director of Field Education, School of Social Work at Wayne State University
  • Impact Investing: New Approaches to Funding Social Change Ventures(workshop - track 2). Developing a sustainable funding model is a key feature of social entrepreneurship. David Contorer, Executive Director of the Hebrew Free Loan program and Doug Bitonti Stewart, Executive Director of Max. M. and Marjorie Fisher Foundation will discuss the emerging field of Impact Investing. Impact investments include new and existing funding mechanisms and models that seek to deliver on social and financial returns, and help promising social enterprises and innovation practices reach greater scale and maximize their social impact. This workshop is limited to 40 participants.
  • Business Planning for Would-be and Existing Social Entrepreneurs(workshop - track 2). Applying business planning concepts and tools are an essential feature of social entrepreneurship. All entrepreneurs must understand their unique value proposition and how they plan to develop a viable business model. Experienced business developer, planner and coach, Aubrey Agee, Senior Program Administrator of Blackstone Launch Pad at Wayne State University, will lead this workshop designed to help participants think through the myriad of business planning decisions necessary to start or grow a social enterprise venture. This workshop is limited to 40 participants.
  • Marketing your Social Change Venture (workshop - track 2). “build it and they will come” marketing and public relations philosophy rarely works in commercial or social enterprise. Instead, savvy social entrepreneurs need to understand how their product and service offerings can best reach their intended target customers, and how to promote their offerings across multiple channels. Katrina Turnbow, Founder/CEO Kanopi Social, and Google Digital Coach, will provide participants with best practices in marketing social change ventures. This workshop is limited to 40 participants.

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