Amy Hartzler

Contributed by Amy Hartzler

April 27, 2012



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25 Years of Social Venture Network

What happens when 250 of the most innovative, passionate, resourceful social entrepreneurs get together for four days, at Skamania Lodge in the awesome Pacific Northwest? Stimulating conversations. Inspiring presentations. Actionable advice. And a lot of laughter.

Not much sleep.

I was lucky enough to speak on a panel for the Social Venture Network's 25th anniversary member gathering. From topical, attendee-driven sessions, and meaningful connections at every turn, to the legendary hospitality suite — it was a challenge to take full advantage of everything that was offered. In the fading if vibrant SVN afterglow, I'm still trying to parse it all.

On reflection, one observation has risen to the top. In every conversation and session, there was a fundamental, perceptible courage apparent in anyone who cares enough to fuse passion with making a living — and sometimes fail trying. Beyond providing sustainable strongholds in a broken economic system, which would be quite enough, these brave entrepreneurs represent a positive engine for job creation at a time when we need it most.

Here’s just a sampling of those who inspired me, whether embarking on their careers or representing the social entrepreneur establishment, mentoring and funding the best new initiatives:

  • a driven, intuitive young man developing tomorrow's leaders in the clean energy movement at Focus the Nation;
  • the creative and capable tech startup Knodes, challenging us to see and mine new value in our social networks;
  • the powerful duo at Farmland creating a scalable model to take us from conventional agribusiness to a healthy, sustainable and equally profitable system;
  • big dreamers and doers at Purpose, creating 21st century movements by helping organizations and progressive companies mobilize large-scale action;
  • Ogden Publications, speaking up for abundance, common sense and beauty, with stories to back it up;
  • RSF Social Finance, a major investor in all manner of vitally needed startups across education, food and agriculture, and the environment, as well as enterprises like New Resource Bank, which is struggling with the “problem” that too many people want to be part of a positive alternative to our broken banking system;
  • and Joie de Vivre's Chip ConleyDr. Hauschka, Ben and Jerry's and so many others, as well as the passionate venture capitalists who make so many of tomorrow’s best ideas a reality.

These leaders are paving the way to a better future, or have been laying the groundwork for years, making and learning from the mistakes we don't always admit to. All were generous sharing their knowledge, failures and laughter in our common pursuit: creating a better world, one business at a time.

SVN is full of people who aren't lamenting broken systems or asking others for answers. They are living, creating, and celebrating solutions. The most welcoming organization I've ever been a part of, I'm excited to collaborate more deeply with the people I met and with this community, committed to growing social entrepreneurship from the ground up, and top down.