Impact Partnership: Social Enterprise Alliance
23 August 2019 - minneapolis

Part of the “social” in social impact is working with other organizations in the community to strengthen each other’s work. At Impact Hub Minneapolis-St. Paul, we value all of our partnerships — past, present, and future. One of these valuable partnerships is with Social Enterprise Alliance Twin Cities, so we sat down with Ashleyn Przedwiecki, their community manager, to talk a bit about it. Read on to learn more.

“A partnership is always about making sure that you are lifting up the organization that you’re working with an equal or greater capacity to what you’re hoping to get out of it.” 

~Ashleyn Przedwiecki of Social Enterprise Alliance

Would you mind starting out by telling us about Social Enterprise Alliance? 

Absolutely. Social Enterprise Alliance Twin Cities is a chapter of a national organization, with 18 other chapters all around the US. We have our national headquarters in Nashville, and every chapter has the ability to serve its community in its own unique way. But as a whole, the Alliance is there to empower, support and equip social enterprises to succeed in any number of ways, whether that’s through knowledge services, workshops, open office hours, mentorship, training, or any number of things depending on their impact area. 

Specifically, our chapter is focused on the idea of building a movement around social enterprise, making these businesses more visible and making social enterprise a household name so that more people understand what it is and the value that it brings to our community. Additionally, we are encouraging all leaders to see themselves as social entrepreneurs and drivers of social change, and to use business as a tool for good. We do that in a number of ways: hosting workshops and conversation opportunities for people to get together to talk about relevant topics, grand challenges, struggles, and push the movement for all businesses to have a social or environmental impact built right into their business model. We believe that a purpose-driven economy is the way of the future, one that is driven by purpose over profits. It’s important for businesses to be paving the way to that new economy. 

Could you tell us about your role at Social Enterprise Alliance? 

My role is the community manager. I wear many hats, from communications and marketing to producing events and creating spaces for like-minded people to connect. I help support members, host impact hours, and try to connect entrepreneurs to the resources that they need in the community. It’s always a wonderful opportunity to be at the center of what’s going on in the social enterprise world here in the Twin Cities. 

Am I correct in saying that you also have your own social enterprise? 

That’s somewhat true. In addition to SEA TC, I am running my own business in sustainable event design and production. I run a for profit business, and I incorporate social and environmental impact into the work that I do. The core of my core stems from making a positive impact on the world. I would definitely consider that aspect to fit right into the work of the Alliance. However, I am not currently set up as a legal Public Benefit Corporation or certified B Corp yet. Legally declaring my impact with a status such as PBC or B Corp is a tangible way that I can showcase my commitment to social impact. I’m not quite there yet, but it’s something to work towards and I encourage all small business owners to consider in the future!  I also integrate my sustainability practices into all of the work that the Social Enterprise Alliance TC does on the ground.

That alignment is important. Continuing on that thought, how do you think the missions and goals of Social Enterprise Alliance and Impact Hub align?

I think the overall vision of both of these organizations are right in line; in fact, they are ultimately working on creating a purpose-driven economy that works for everyone. We both focus on empowering and connecting people who believe in something bigger than themselves and are working to integrate that into the core of everything that they do, including their businesses. We are also both globally connected. Social enterprise is something that is much more commonplace in areas like the United Kingdom and Australia. Often many businesses and organizations around the world are running social enterprises without realizing that they are. 

I think having a place and a community of people that understand that you’re not only running a business, but that you’re running it for a greater purpose, is something that both of our organizations try to create space for and connect like-minded people globally. There’s a strong alliance of goals around equipping people to elevate an equitable economy that works for everyone, around promoting innovation, and in trying to think of how to do business in a way that’s never been done before. Both organizations bring like-minded people together and are trying to always pushing innovating to cocreate a new future.

Could you talk a bit about the partnership between the Social Enterprise Alliance and Impact Hub? 

Absolutely. We support one another’s workshops and programs and we have specific agenda items that we’re working on together. For example, Impact Hub was a wonderful supporter of our impact showcase event last May, which highlighted social entrepreneurs and enterprises and celebrated their impact throughout the community. 

We also often come together to partner around big community events, such as Twin Cities Startup Week, which happens in October every year. For the last few years, both of our organizations have pulled together resources and ideas to try to equally support the space and introduce social enterprise and impact ideas to the greater community. So, we often partner on different events around that specific time, as well as supporting the community through mentorship programs and highlighting members of our ecosystem. We also share our experts or mentors with Impact Hub as well as direct entrepreneurs to the community space at Impact Hub because we don’t have a physical space of our own. While we are sort of online and ethereal movers, Impact Hub provides that grounded space and place. We often find ourselves here, supporting and connecting entrepreneurs to national and global contacts, and use the Impact Hub space as that gathering place to find those like minded people. 

If you were mentoring an organization who is looking to partner with another organization, what advice might you share with them? 

I think it would depend on what the organization was looking for, and the circumstance. Coming to Social Enterprise Alliance or Impact Hub first is a great step because we see a lot of what’s going on in the space. And there are many mentors and people who have been around for a really long time that can make the right connections for you. As an entrepreneur, sometimes the most challenging part is reaching out for help and asking for what you need, when you don’t know what you need. Finding people who have been working in the ecosystem for a long time can be a little daunting and challenging, but there are a lot of experts right here at Impact Hub, as well as through the Social Enterprise Alliance. 

To find what’s going to be the right partnership for you at the right time, it does depend on what you need, so I recommend connecting with someone first, just to get to know what they’re doing and how you can support them. Then, develop that relationship with the key leaders of the organization before diving into a partnership. It’s always great to just feel out the relationship and decide whether or not you can mutually benefit one another, because a partnership is always about making sure that you are lifting up the organization that you’re working with an equal or greater capacity to what you’re hoping to get out of it. It’s always best to just ask them; never make assumptions about what an organization wants or needs; just be sure you come together to the table to decide what could benefit the community and the people that you’re serving. Talk about whether the right partnership and space in which to elevate each organization’s goals more quickly. 

Is there anything else you’d like to mention to our community? 

One other thing that I wanted to mention is a partnership we have with Forge North that adds value to our community. It’s still in development, but it’s really close to being released. Together, we’ve been working on a resource and tool directory for startups, entrepreneurs, and small business leaders called Startup Space. It’s a digital hub of organizations, community leaders, and people that are serving entrepreneurs all around our community, designed to be a one-stop shop for any entrepreneur or individual who is stuck looking for a partnership or looking for that next phase. The digital hub aims to help them find the resources they need more quickly and see the landscape of what is available to them, because often just searching online doesn’t yield the results that you need. Impact Hub is one of the resources that’s listed for sure, among many others. The Forge North community has come together to say we need to build a platform and be that support system so entrepreneurs can thrive more quickly. That’s been something that’s been very exciting to work on, and I can’t wait for that to come out, likely during Twin Cities Startup Week. I’m really excited about what’s next for our region. With the millennial generation constantly asking businesses to be more transparent, ethical, and sustainable in their methods and models, it’s the right time to be a socially minded business.