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Elon student Leslie Gilman attends social entrepreneurship summer institute

Leslie Gilman, a psychology major from California, Md. and a Civic Engagement Scholar at Elon, was recently a participant and student teacher in the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation Service & Social Entrepreneurship Program Summer Institute, which took place in Huacas, Costa Rica.

The institute teaches students to utilize social entrepreneurship principles to address social problems and create systemic change.

Gilman and a group of  students representing a dozen colleges and universities affiliated with the Sullivan Foundation started their summer experience with a  study of social entrepreneurship, including designing a theory of change, developing marketing and fundraising strategies, and creating social business plans. Upon completing the coursework, the students began an internship in which they applied their knowledge of entrepreneurial principles and developed social business plans for locally-owned small businesses in and around Huacas, Costa Rica.

Participants also assisted a youth summer camp with CEPIA, a Costa Rican, non-governmental organization that promotes culture, health, sports, and education for impoverished children, teenagers and their families. The summer concluded with a presentation from each student of his or her social business plan to CEPIA, community partners and local residents.

“This summer experience has taught me a lot about social entrepreneurship, working with local communities in cultures different than mine, and my future life plans,” Gilman said. “Empowering people in a culturally understanding context is both extremely difficult and rewarding in a humbling way. I want to incorporate this aspect of social entrepreneurship into my career path in bilingual education or counseling. This experience has really affirmed that aspect of my future plans.”

The small businesses receiving assistance was a result of the students’ efforts included Harmonia Pura, a mobile spa operated by eight low-income women; GuanArte, a group of women artisans launching their own business; and a start-up ecotourism company spearheaded by high school students. A fourth group of American students assisted CEPIA with generating support for a new integrated community center (CCI).

The underlying goals of each project included empowering community members, alleviating poverty, and building a model for sustainable operations.

Gilman helped facilitate three classes a week to high school students, with topics ranging from business management to English language skills for the tourism industry. Her team’s goal was to provide the students with a strong foundation to successfully launch an ecotourism business by December 2012.

The students who participated in the Summer Institute attend Clemson University, the College of William and Mary, Duke University, Elon University, Erskine College, Oglethorpe University, Rollins College, Salem College, Stetson University, the University of the Cumberlands, and the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Debbi Brock of Wingate University instructed the two-week social entrepreneurship course, while Keith Whittingham of Rollins College facilitated the internships.

The students also received assistance from four mentors: Berry College alumna and TheAfricanSoup founder Brin Enterkin, Brenau University MBA graduate Iben Nelson, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Ph.D. student Lauren Hutchison, and University of California, Berkeley MPP graduate David Gray.

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation was created in 1930 to honor young men and women who show remarkable character and integrity, and who demonstrate a commitment to service to others. The Foundation provides scholarships to 31 colleges and universities and presents annual rewards to graduating seniors at 61 institutions in the American South.

Eric Townsend,
9/6/2012 11:22 AM