Gigot Center, FISH host social entrepreneurship conference

Author: Carol Elliott


Historically, the words “social” and “entrepreneurship” belonged to two separate worlds – “social” with social work or charities, and “entrepreneurship” with business. But in recent years, the joining of the two concepts has led to a new generation of business ventures that apply innovative thinking to large-scale social problems, with goals that are nothing short of sweeping, sustainable change for the human community.

The Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Notre Dame and the Fellow Irish Social Hub (FISH) will bring together some of the foremost social innovators during its inaugural Irish Impact Social Entrepreneurship Conference, to be held Sept. 27-28 in the Mendoza College of Business. The conference is open to the 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 on Sept. 28 by Rishi Jaitly, a director with the nonprofit John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.  Jaitly is a renowned global expert in digital innovation, public leadership and social entrepreneurship.  His talk will take place at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28, in the Mendoza College’s Jordan Auditorium.

“We believe social entrepreneurship is the perfect pathway for creative and inspired individuals to address issues of access for vulnerable populations, whether in the public health arena, education, energy, or economic development,” said Melissa Paulsen, conference organizer and manager of Gigot Center Social/Micro Venturing Programs.  “The Irish Impact Social Entrepreneurship Conference 2012 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 two-day event will also include an Irish Impact 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 30 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.

Panel participants include Greg Van Kirk, co-founder of The New Development Solutions Group and the Schwab Foundation’s “2012 Social Entrepreneur of the Year (Latin America); Chris “Kreece” Fuchs, co-founder of bookseller Better World Books; Kate Antonacci, project manager for Panera Cares, an innovation, donation-based community café concept; and Steve Camilleri, executive director for South Bend’s Center for the Homeless.

A complete schedule and a listing of practitioner bios can be found at

The Fellow Irish Social Hub (FISH) 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 infusing aspiring entrepreneurs with a sense of the possible. Through rigorous coursework, our business plan competitions, extensive networking and mentorship, and hands-on learning experiences, we provide students with the knowledge and skills vital to traditional and social entrepreneurship.

For more information about the Gigot Center, call (574) 631-3042 or visit