Cindy Cooper Wins 40 Under 40 Award

February 19, 2013 at 8:15 am Leave a comment

Cindy Cooper, Director of the Impact Entrepreneurs initiative at Portland State University, was recently selected by the Portland Business Journal to join their 40 Under 40 list of the most influential young Portlanders. Cindy is co-founder of the award-winning social enterprise Speak Shop, which connects language tutors in Guatemala to students around the world; founder and director of PSU’s Social Innovation Incubator, selected by Fast Company as one of America’s 51 brilliant urban ideas; and teaches entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship at PSU. After the 40 Under 40 awards, she was kind enough to share some of her tips for other social entrepreneurs.

What words of advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you launched Speak Shop?

Don’t be shy about asking for help.

What do you think is the most interesting new trend in business for social good?

In the past, we often heard about the prototypical social entrepreneur who came into being after experiencing an epiphany and being moved to act to change an injustice, using the best of business and social sectors. It was often a reactive approach: We found them, we lauded them, we learned from them.

We need to continue to meet social entrepreneurs where they are and when they arise, but today we see the opportunity to inspire and teach people how to be innovators for change. We’re becoming more proactive about this. Leading social entrepreneurship supporters like Ashoka are starting earlier, looking at how to develop empathic thinking in children. Organizations like Encore.org are looking later at how the young at heart can choose social entrepreneurship as a rewarding encore career opportunity. We can encourage that process and not wait for serendipitous events to inspire action and great ideas.

What’s a good starting point for someone interested in learning more about social entrepreneurship? 

We have some great go-to readings on our website:
http://www.pdx.edu/impactentrepreneurs/resources

Ashoka is a global leader in this space and has lots of knowledge collected over more than 30 years of work: http://www.ashoka.org

Probably one of the best ways is to talk to someone who’s done it, or attend an event where social entrepreneurs are willing to speak candidly about their experiences.

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