Posts Categorized: Pittsburgh

What is social enterprise?

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And how does it relate to this year’s theme: “Dare to Create?”

In a previous blog post, TEDxGrandviewAve organizer Kacey Wherley defined “create” as “to start something new.” She also stressed that it was not so much about the act of being creative, as it is about taking that first step to create.

That resonated with me, as I thought about how much that theme, as well as TEDx more broadly, this year’s featured speakers, and the stories they’re telling relate to the drive to create social enterprise.

People ask constantly, what do you mean by social enterprise? Is a non-profit a social enterprise? Is our local food co-op a social enterprise? These are complicated and loaded questions, because the term “social enterprise,” just like the word “sustainability,” often means something different to every person or organization who uses it.

However, though it carries many different meanings, at Idea Foundry, we define social enterprise as using responsible, ethical, and accountable business to create sustained, impactful, and positive social change. We consider market-driven solutions to the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges the most compelling form of social enterprise, mainly because like all for-profit businesses, they are revenue generating, which makes them financially sustainable, and therefore more impactful, over the long run.

There are so many terms for this: “triple bottom line;” “profit with a purpose;” “business for good;” “conscious capitalism;” and the list goes on. What they all have in common, though, is that they represent this specific type of wide-reaching, innovative, and replicable solutions that spread economic, social, and environmental benefits through our communities. For-profit social enterprises are often elegant models for how we can create a more just and sustainable world through business.

Now, while not all TEDx speakers are social entrepreneurs, especially by the definition laid out above, many of them are. (For example, Thread International, the company of Ian Rosenberger, one of this year’s speakers, was one of the first social enterprise ventures Idea Foundry supported.) This is because social enterprise at a very basic level harkens back to Kacey’s definition of “create,” or to start something new. At its core, social enterprise is designing new solutions to old problems, executing unique ideas that disrupt the status quo in the name of social good.

Social enterprise often starts with a person who is acquainted with a problem, often in their own community, and often on a deeply personal level, such as poor air quality, substandard public transit, widespread unemployment, recidivism, or unequal access to healthy foods. Social enterprise results when that person has the drive to solve that problem, is not afraid to try something new, knows what it takes to accomplish their goals, can rally others around their passion and ideas, and has the courage to just go for it.

So as you’re enjoying this weekend’s TEDxGrandviewAve festivities, my question to you is: What will you do to change the world for the better? What will you Dare to Create?


Guest post written by Nicole Muise-Kielkucki, manager of social enterprise initiatives at Idea Foundry. Idea Foundry is a sponsor of TEDxGrandviewAve.

To learn more about social enterprise in Pittsburgh,  follow us on twitter at @InterSectorPGH. 

Happy Anniversary to Us!

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by Joe Vennare, Storyteller

The TEDx GVA team has been crazy busy.

In fact, we’ve been working so hard on this year’s installment of TEDxGrandviewAve, we almost forget to wish ourselves Happy Anniversary!

It’s been an entire year, 365 + days, since our very first event. Back on February 23rd, 2013 we invited one hundred or so folks out to hear 10 fantastic speakers share their ideas and experiences. They didn’t disappoint. Pittsburgh took center stage. Energy, innovation and inspiration stole the show.

It was terrific and terrifying. Hosting an event of any kind can be. In the end, it was all worth it. We went to the edge of innovation. Once we did, there was no turning back. There was only one option, go even bigger. And we are. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

This year’s event will have over 400 guests. We’d love to have you! You’ll be blown away by our speaker list. From top to bottom, we’ve set out to create an event and experience that will showcase Pittsburgh and her people. The one’s who Dare to Create, and the others who need a spark to ignite their creativity. Join us on April 26th, 2014. The speakers, attendees, team and our collective energy are sure to be the spark you’ve been waiting for.

 You can review all of the 2013 speakers’ talks here.



Our Future Takes Center Stage

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by Joe Vennare, Storyteller

New Hazlett Theater

The story of starting again is one that we Pittsburghers are familiar with. A narrative that we know all too well. One that, dare I say, we’ve come to embrace.

The steel boom that built our city could just as easily brought us down when it went bust. But, instead of breaking we came together, like carbon and iron. We formed an alloy capable of withstanding the elements. One that would come to define the revival by the rivers.

The results of this restart, of this revival can be seen all across this city. There’s a touch of resilience at every turn. A palpable history and sense of brilliance that are redefining our direction.

The Same Story, a New Narrative

At TEDxGrandviewAve we’ve made it our mission to showcase the people and ideas that are playing a pivotal role in this restart. So, on April 26, 2014 that’s exactly what we plan to do. When the speakers take the stage at the New Hazlett Theater their ideas will be added those thoughts capable of setting a new course. Preserving the past while preparing for the future.

Which is to be expected, given the restart story of Pittsburgh that we know. But, so fitting given the resilience of the New Hazlett that might be overlooked.

The History of the New Hazlett


In recent years Pittsburgh has become home to a number startup spaces and business accelerators. During that same time, the New Hazlett has served as an incubator for the arts. It’s history mirrors that of the city it resides in.

History – Thanks to Andrew Carnegie, the New Hazlett was built in 1889. Originally it was the Carnegie Free Public Library and Music Hall – the first of it’s kind. Later, in 1980 the Public Library and Music Hall was renamed in honor of Theodore L. Hazlett Jr, a civic leader who supported the arts and worked to rid the city of smog.

Resilience – When the hall was threatened by demolition in 1967, the community stepped up (as we’ve been known to do) to secure the necessary funding for a renovation.

Defining the future – Flashforward to the present day and this nonprofit theater continues to thrive and as an active component of PIttsburgh’s arts community.

And on April 26, 2014 the New Hazlett will play host to a performance that encompasses the arts, but doesn’t stop there. We’ll explore technology and education, creativity and innovation as we engineer the businesses, relationships and communities as we continue to redefine Pittsburgh.

We are what’s next

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history blog post

Pittsburgh is a tale of two cities – the old and the new.

Steel and skyscrapers built its foundation. Now, innovation and entrepreneurship are shaping her future.

But, it’s not as if we’ve severed ties with our historic past.

Here, the former and future are indelibly linked. These two worlds have come together to create a community and a culture where hard work really does pay off, and it pays to be a good neighbor.  We ride an incline, a coal cart, to work in a thriving metropolis. The buildings and landmarks we pass each day bare the names of our cities pioneers and powerhouses – Carnegie, Mellon, Warhol, Frick.

Like the titans of industry and art who preceded us, we’re empowered to leave our fingerprints on the city in which we live. Our impact marks a shift towards co-working and community, business and biotech, medicine, education, sustainability and startups.

Although the signs still read under construction, there’s no doubt that we’re in the midst of reclaiming our destiny as a region whose influence spans the globe.

As we work, we wear the coal on our hands as a badge of honor, paying homage to our city’s heritage. It’s a heritage that has earned us a place among the ranks of the Rust Belt. But for us, the rust is not a sign of decay.  Rather, it’s a reminder that we’re capable of building something bigger than ourselves, something that will outlast us.

It’s the story of two cities – the old and the new; a tale of rust and resilience.

Words do this story a disservice; its better if you see it for yourself.

Standing on Grandview Avenue, high atop the hills of Mt. Washington, the lines of this comeback story become crystal clear. Visions of what was and what is converge there.

The story of what’s next, of what could be, is being written here; at TEDxGrandviewAve.

It’s no coincidence that our name mirrors that of the iconic overlook. Melding the old with the new – building on our past while looking to the future – we’re mixing imagination with inspiration; creating the platform for Pittsburgh and its people to tell stories of ideas worth spreading.

Because we are what’s next.

You are what’s next.

What will you create? What legacy will you leave?