Global Issues Become Business Opportunities at Social Entrepreneurship Forum

Jeff Haanen

“Every global issue is a business opportunity just waiting for the right kind of inventive
entrepreneurship, the right kind of investment,
the right kind of collective action.”
– Peter Drucker

Comb through the latest statistics on poverty or crime and you don’t have to look very far to feel discouraged: Almost 22% of American kids live in poverty, 800 million people worldwide lack clean water, and U.S. recidivism rates remain stubbornly high. Yet, a growing movement of determined social entrepreneurs offers creative solutions to these pressing problems.

A few years ago, the Denver Institute hosted its first Social Entrepreneurship Forum, a gathering of more than 80 professionals who hope to develop businesses opportunities that serve the greater good. Presenters Joy Anderson of the Criterion Institute, Neil Bellefeuille of the Paradigm Project, Jim Reiner of Belay Enterprises, and Rich Hoops of Social Venture Partners addressed tough questions facing aspiring entrepreneurs:

  • How does theology shape our understanding of economics?
  • How can business be used to address unmet needs around the world?
  • What challenges should entrepreneurs anticipate as they start a social venture?

Forum participants also exchanged ideas through small group discussions and informal networking. These conversations prompted many participants to see their professional lives in a new light. “Sometimes it seems like business people check their professional skills at the door when they walk into church and leave their spirit behind when they go to work,” explained impact investor Ed Briscoe. “It encouraged me to see people question assumptions about traditional business models as they integrate their professional lives and faith.”

Jake Smith of Weave Social Finance observed: “One of the things I enjoyed most was seeing a room full of people engaged in different forms of work, but all seeking to change the paradigm of how we think about work and the outcomes we are trying to achieve…The panel of speakers was broad and deep.  An entire evening could have been devoted to each one, learning from their unique experience and challenges.”

Who knows what innovations will come to life through ideas shared at the forum? May God empower the entrepreneurs who joined us to leverage these innovative strategies for the greater good.


Jeff Haanen

Jeff Haanen is a writer and entrepreneur. He founded Denver Institute for Faith & Work, a community of conveners, teachers and learners offering experiences and educational resources on the gospel, work, and community renewal. He is the author of An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life and an upcoming two-book series on spiritual formation, vocation, and the working class for Intervarsity Press. He lives with his wife and four daughters in Denver and attends Wellspring Church in Englewood, Colorado.