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ForSE 2013: Conference For Social Entrepreneurs

Vithal Deshpande

The Seventh Annual  “Forum for Social Entrepreneurs (FORSE)” co-hosted by the TIE Boston Social Entrepreneurs Special Interest group and the MIT Society for Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) was held at MIT on October 19, 2013. The forum brought together a diverse group of social innovators, students, professionals and leading proponents to focus on the key issues and challenges in the social entrepreneurship area. Theme of the conference was:"Rethinking the Power of the Community".

MIT student Keertan Kini  welcomed attendees on behalf of MIT SASE. It was followed by welcome speech by Eric Grimson, Chancellor, MIT.  TIE–Boston president Prat Moghe gave an overview of TIE, its ongoing work in entrepreneurial community in Boston as well as collaborative projects in Europe, and role of the social entrepreneurs group in fostering entrepreneurship.

Poonam Alhuwalia, Executive Director, YouthTrade, along with Lee Kane, EcoCzar/Forager, Whole Foods, delivered a morning keynote.  Both Poonam and Lee spoke about youth entrepreneurs and how their initiatives are supporting such entrepreneurial activities. Poonam also introduced the audience to four representative youth entrepreneurs from YouthTrade and shared their success stories, thus setting the tone for the rest of the day.

This one day conference provided audience an opportunity to meet and learn about an array of social impact projects, businesses, non-profits and start-ups. There were total five sessions addressing unique individual sub-themes: sharing economy, health innovation, energy and environment, research into real life, and smart growth. A variety of enterprises ranging from specialty ice cream shop to innovative concepts like artisan asylum, energy generation technologies to composting toilets system, and from smart remote health monitoring to urban farming.

This was the fifth year of pitch competition.  Five pitch applications were pre-selected from number of applications and two were selected as wildcard applications on the event day. Anu Chitrapu (SVP - Bank of America), Subbu Kota (CEO Boston Group), Pravin Chaturvedi (Chief Scientific Officer, Napo Pharmaceuticals), Mukund Chorghade (Chief Scientific Officer, Thinq Pharma) and Jane Mason of Cambridge Trust Company were on the Judge Panel.  Lalitara's founder Bijal Shah. Drinkwell's founder Minhaj Chowdhury and Toilets for People's founder Jason Kass won  the first, second and the third prizes.

Prof. Ramesh Raskar, Leader, Camera Culture Lab, MIT, delivered inspirational keynote speech before announcement of pitch winners. Using his "Idea Hexagon" concept, he explained how one needs to think of innovation. He further shares developments of his India based projects and EyeNetra.com social enterprise.

The organizing committee included members of the TIE-Social Enterprise special interest group Vithal Deshpande, Ranjani Saigal, Anuradha Yadav, Raj Melville, Donna White and Rakesh Pandey, along with members of MIT SASE Arthi Vezhavendan, Keertan Kini, Tanya Phung, Aaron Thomas Phil Kamtue, Rohan-Kabir Amin, Francis Chen and Daniel Li.

This event was not only inspiring but also brought many like minded entrepreneurs and would-be social entrepreneurs together.

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