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It’s a big week for social entrepreneurship in Orlando. This weekend is the first social entrepreneurship- themed Startup Weekend, and tomorrow the RAISE social enterprise lab opens in the UCF Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. The lab will help Orlando entrepreneurs- both at UCF and in the broader community- build connections to help them develop and scale their social enterprise businesses.

The RAISE lab was founded by Dr. David Rogers and Colin Forward, who are both tech entrepreneurs interested in using technology to solve global problems. The lab grew out of the team’s research in deploying mobile software in emerging markets. They saw an opportunity to begin using the data and resources they were developing, and that others were developing, to further social innovation. Their goal with the lab is to provide useful resources, consulting, relationships, and development support to social entrepreneurs in Orlando.

It was important to the team that the lab be connected to the business school at UCF. “We looked at all of the social enterprise initiatives around the country and found that business schools are a great place for interdisciplinary collaboration. We’re working closely with UCF’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership to focus diverse interests around solid business principals,” said Colin.

Social entrepreneurship is not new to Central Florida. The Rollins Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainability Initiative (SESI), launched in 2010, “takes an entrepreneurial approach to global change by applying innovation and sustainability to the world’s most pressing societal challenges.” In 2013 Rollins created the Department of Business and Social Entrepreneurship, which offers a major in social entrepreneurship. The college will host this weekend’s Startup Weekend: Social Entrepreneurship event.

The term ‘social enterprise’ encompasses both for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations that apply business principles to solving social problems.

“Social business is the process where a sustainable business model is aligned with a social need. Freemium software is a great example: a tool can serve a whole community by providing free services to many, while sustaining itself off of a smaller subscription base. With RAISE we want to provide the infrastructure for social entrepreneurs to address community challenges with sustainable products and services,” said Dr. Rogers.

“Social business is often about improving access – to water, to employment, to financing, the list goes on.  Emerging technologies can make this possible. Mobile technology, 3D printing, cryptocurrency are just a few examples of nascent technologies that have and will continue to have a huge impact on the reach of social entrepreneurs,” said Colin.

RAISE has invited the public to attend the lab’s grand opening/ open house event tomorrow at 12pm. The event will include an overview of the lab’s goals and a brainstorming session with local entrepreneurs. RAISE is located on the UCF campus in BA 135.

Next week Orlando Tech will be profiling a few social enterprise tech companies, including the company both Dr. Rogers and Colin manage,Allogy- a for-profit social enterprise that developed Capillary, which is a kind of “BaaS” (backend as a service). Dr. Rogers is founder/CEO and Colin is Director of Business Development for Allogy, which serves customers and helps communities on a global scale. Stay tuned.

pic: RAISE lab founders Dr. David Rogers (left) and Colin Forward (right) with the Director of Kenya’s AIDS/STD program, Dr. Kimanga Davies (center) 

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