“It’s a People’s Business”: Speaking with UIC-SEA Chicago’s Students

Make an impact. And make money to scale your impact.

Any organization moving into the social enterprise space works hard to make these two things happen.

Learning how to marry the two is the driving force behind the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA) Chicago’s new Social Enterprise Certificate program. The 16-week program is focused on providing non-profit professionals and entrepreneurs with the knowledge to build effective social enterprises.

CiTTA’s Co-Founder and CEO Belinda Li was honored to speak to over 40 UIC-SEA-Chicago students of diverse backgrounds on February 6th.

Speaking with UIC-SEA Chicago students Feb. 6.

With a focus on the special human and cultural considerations when creating a social enterprise, Belinda and program participants enjoyed a lively exchange. Beyond business models, finances, and legal structures of social enterprise, they discussed questions like:

  • How do you handle internal resistance to the idea that non-profits may charge for services in order to fulfill their mission?
  • How do you fill the gaps in staffing when it comes to necessary business expertise?
  • How do you ensure your new venture fully aligns with your values and mission?

Drawing on CiTTA’s work with NeighborWorks America, Belinda shared what led to success in cultivating champions from the non-profit organization’s board members, staff, and the people they continue to serve.

As Belinda noted that evening, becoming a social enterprise may not be a fit for every nonprofit. But when it does work for mission and margin to feed each other, professionals have an amazing opportunity to more fully adapt to customers’ and core beneficiaries’ needs.

And with investors, board members, and staff engaged with a culture of continuous learning and mission lift – rather than mission drift – the opportunities for creating sustainable impact are really exciting.

“I was happy to see the students of UIC-SEA-Chicago’s program so engaged. They had so many ideas and experiences to share,” said Belinda. “Social enterprise has a promising future!”