Second annual Irish Impact Conference to gather social entrepreneurs from around the world

Author: Carol Elliott

Irish Impact Social Entrepreneurship Conference

The Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Notre Dame and the Fellow Irish Social Hub will bring together some of the foremost social innovators during the second annual Irish Impact Social Entrepreneurship Conference, to be held Wednesday-Friday (Oct. 2-4) in the Mendoza College of Business. The conference is open to students, faculty and staff of the Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College and Holy Cross College communities.

The public is invited to attend the keynote talk at 5:30 p.m. Thursday (Oct. 3) by David Bornstein, titled, “Getting Smarter About Change: Social Entrepreneurship’s Age of Enlightenment.” The talk will take place in the Mendoza College’s Jordan Auditorium.

Bornstein, a journalist and author who focuses on social innovation, co-authors the “Fixes” column in The New York Times Opinionator section, which explores and analyzes potential solutions to major social problems. He is the co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, which supports journalists who report on constructive responses to social problems. His books include “How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas,” “The Price of a Dream: The Story of the Grameen Bank” and “Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know.” He is currently completing a book on social innovation in the U.S. and Canada.

“The energy and networking generated by last year’s inaugural conference was a tremendous testimony to the increasing interest in social entrepreneurship as a way of addressing issues of access for vulnerable populations, whether in the public health arena, education, energy or economic development,” said Melissa Paulsen, conference organizer and assistant director of the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship. “The Irish Impact Social Entrepreneurship Conference seeks to unite social innovators who are developing new business models — whether for-profit, nonprofit or hybrid enterprises — in diverse industries with like-minded students who are searching for concrete examples and avenues to address societal needs.”

The conference will include sessions designed to facilitate networking among social entrepreneurs and the Notre Dame community, to improve the understanding of what “rate of return” means for social ventures, and to introduce strategies for seeking funding sources.

The three-day event will also include the Zielsdorf Family Investment Pitch session, where judges will hear live funding pitches from a select group of seasoned social entrepreneurs; the Irish Impact Opportunity Fair, where more than 50 social entrepreneurs will set up displays and be on hand to discuss their ventures; and the Irish Impact Awards, which recognize organizations and individuals who have demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit and significant social impact.

Conference participants include:

  • Alexandra LaForge of Investors’ Circle, which represents a network of more than 200 angel investors, professional venture capitalists, foundations, family offices and others who are using private capital to promote the transition to a sustainable economy.
  • John Tyler, general counsel of the Kauffman Foundation, a Notre Dame alumnus (both undergrad and law school) and a nationally known authority on emerging forms of business for social ventures and related legal issues.
  • Greg Van Kirk, co-founder of The New Development Solutions Group and the Schwab Foundation’s 2012 Social Entrepreneur of the Year (Latin America).
  • Paula Cardenau, co-founder and director of Njambre, the first Impact Innovation Enterprises Builder and Accelerator in the Southern Cone, and social enterprise adviser to Ashoka.
  • Stephen Keppel, director of empowerment initiatives at Univision News overseeing the expansion and development of Univision’s social campaigns, including launching a $20 million health initiative and implementing/executing a $500,000 Ford Foundation grant to enhance Univision’s reporting on immigration, financial inclusion and education issues.

A complete schedule can be found at

Paulsen also invites social entrepreneurs to contribute a video to the “What’s Your Irish Impact” YouTube channel, which are short testimonials from individuals discussing their social ventures.

The Fellow Irish Social Hub offers incubation services to social entrepreneurs ready to launch their ventures. In partnership with Innovation Park at Notre Dame, FISH provides world-class facilities and critical occupational services, as well as valuable research and development tools. Its nine-month business incubator program is designed to prepare each client to launch a social enterprise and to maximize its social impact. For more information about FISH, visit

The Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship was founded in 1998 for the purpose of fostering innovation and inspiring entrepreneurs. Through rigorous coursework, business plan competitions, extensive networking and mentorship, and hands-on learning experiences, the Gigot Center provides students with the knowledge and skills vital to traditional and social entrepreneurship.

The Irish Impact Social Entrepreneurship Conference is made possible with support from the Robert L. (Class of ’65) and Frances J. Zielsdorf Foundation. The Zielsdorf family provides support for health care, education and hardship and emergency grants to deserving individuals and families in Indian River County, Fla.; Shelby County, Ohio; and Cheboygan County, Mich. As longtime supporters of Notre Dame and Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns, the Zielsdorfs view the opportunity to help underwrite this conference as a way to support the growth of social entrepreneurship to help instill the idea that elements of capitalism can be harnessed as a force for good.

Contact: Melissa Paulsen, 574-631-3042,

Originally published by Carol Elliott at on October 01, 2013.