Finger Lakes Social Entrepreneurship Institute


4th Annual Finger Lakes Social Entrepreneurship Institute :  November 13-15.

The theme for this year's Institute is "Building Community through our Social Ventures." 

The Institute will feature tools that are essential to the success of a social venture, a keynote talk, presentations with inspiring and innovative social entrepreneurs, one-on-one coaching from experience entrepreneurs, and a field trip to a local incubator and a co-working space.  Our program also dovetails with Cornell's "Random Hacks of Kindness" event that is taking place the same weekend!

The detailed 3-day schedule can be found below.

Cost: $200, 10% early bird discount until October 13 (discount code "Earlybird")

Student rate: $100 (discount code "Studentspecial")

Full and Partial Scholarships are available.  To apply click here.

Registration ends at midnight, Monday, November 2.

Your ticket gives you access to Friday's opening plenary and reception, all the workshops on Saturday,  yoga breaks, and one-on-one coaching or a field trip (which includes a session on the Lean Startup Model) on Sunday morning. 

Meals included are:

  • Friday Dinner
  • Saturday Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
  • Sunday Breakfast and Lunch

Featured Models and Tools:

  • The Business Model Generator Canvas: The BMG Canvas is a strategic management and entrepreneurial tool. It allows you to describe, design, challenge, invent, and pivot your business model.
  • The Matrix Map:The Matrix Map is a visual tool that plots all of the organization's activities -- not just its programs -- into a single, compelling image. By illustrating the organization's business model -- through a picture of all activities and the financial and mission impact of each one -- it supports genuinely strategic discussions.
  • People-Centered Design: This Design Process helps people hear the needs of those they’re designing for, create innovative approaches to meet these needs, and deliver solutions that work in specific cultural and economic contexts.
  • Lean Startup Model: Too many startups begin with an idea for a product, program or service that they think people want. They don't take the time to speak to prospective customers to determine whether the product or service truly meets their needs, and to test and iterate based on feedback. As a result, their business or nonprofit service/program fails to attract customers or participants. The Lean Startup model helps you avoid this pitfall. It's mantra is "Don't sell what you can make; Make what you can sell."

The Institute will include local, healthy meals, and panels and workshops where you will:

  • Apply and evaluate leading models pivotal to the success of social ventures.
  • Know and incorporate elements of creating a collaborative, inclusive economy into their social ventures or areas of work.
  • Integrate the insights and know-how of experienced social entrepreneurs, peers and consultants.
  • Develop relationships that continue beyond the Institute with a diverse group of social entrepreneurs and people in key supporting sectors such as education, business, finance, policy, and community organizing.

Schedule (subject to change)

Friday, November 13 196 Statler Hall, Cornell University

3:00 - 4:00 pm  Registration and Orientation: Creating goals for your experience at the Institute

4:00-5:00 pm Opening Plenary with Maarten Jacobs and residents of Syracuse's Near Westside. 

Community Development and Engaged Scholarship: Forging Unlikely Coalitions to Improve the Quality of Life on Syracuse's Near Westside

Over the past decade, an unlikely coalition has formed between Syracuse University, dozens of partnering organizations, and the residents of the Near Westside community, all working collaboratively to revitalize an impoverished and marginalized neighborhood in Syracuse, New York.  The coalition, guided by the Near Westside Initiative, relies on the skills and knowledge of its partners to drive the revitalization of the community with a focus on: housing, commercial development, resident engagement, creative placemaking, community health, and workforce development.  Through this collaborative approach, with resident voices driving the initiative, over $70 million in new capital investment has been made, attracting 337 full time jobs, developing over 300,000 square feet of commercial space, and renovating more than 60 homes.

(This Plenary is free and open to the public)

5:00-6:00 pm Dinner and Networking with participants of the Institute and the Random Hacks of Kindnessevent in the atrium of Sage Hall, Cornell. 

6:00-7:00 pm  Random Hacks of Kindness Project Overview: Detailed overview of projects and problems presented by community partners  that will be "hacked" on Saturday (Optional)

Saturday, November 14 Greater Ithaca Activities Center, Downtown Ithaca

8:00 am Morning Yoga

8:30-9:00  am Breakfast

9:00-9:30 am Morning Plenary 

Living our Values : Food, Farms, and Equity with Rafael Aponte from Rocky Acres Community Farm. Rocky Acres combines the spirit of social justice with the transformative healing aspects of nature and agriculture. the 10-acre farm focuses on education and the sustainable production of local vegetables, herbs, and meat for low-income communities.

9:45-10:45 am Concurrent Workshops

  • Introduction to the Business Model Generation Canvas
  • Introduction to the Social Impact and Financial Sustainability Matrix Map
  • Your Social Enterprise and the Law: What Legal Structure do you choose?

11:00 am-12:00 pm Concurrent Workshops

  • How to Why: Creating a purpose-led map for planning, acting, and communication
  • People-centered Design: Creating something that people want and need
  • Pricing for Sustainability: Advice from Crooked Carrot and Celia's Pops
  • A Template for the Community ReUse Model

12:00-12:30 pm Afternoon Yoga or Coaching

Review Your Goals for the Institute: How are you doing?

12:30-1:45 Lunch with Panel Discussion 

Panel: Creating Community through Social Ventures

  • Sara Knobel from the Groton Library
  • True Benton from Big Time Barber Shop
  • Eddie Moran from the Southside Community Center

2:00-3:00 pm Concurrent Workshops

  • Pitch Clinic: Practice Your Pitch! 
  • Social Entrepreneurship for People with disABILITIES
  • Logo and Branding Design for Everybody
  • Diving Deeper into the Community ReUse Center Model

3:15- 4:15 pm Case Studies: Crowd Sourcing Solutions to Current Challenges Faced by:

  • Build It Keep It
  • Bici-Cocina
  • Anabel's Grocery
  • Finger Lakes ReUse Center

4:30-4:45 pm Reflection: Review your goals for the Institute. What are your next steps?

5:00-5:30 pm Evening Yoga or Coaching  

5:45-7:00 pm Dinner and Socializing

Sunday, November 15:  Greater Ithaca Activities Center, Downtown Ithaca

8:30 am Breakfast

9:00 - 11:00 am 

  • We will first walk to the Ithaca Commons and get a tour by founder Bob Rossi of the CommonSpot, which is a new space where a diverse group of members share high-speed Internet, office amenities, desk space, meeting rooms, empowering events, and an active community working toward the common good. Afterwards we will walk over to the Rev Incubator, a collaboration between Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Tompkins Cortland Community College. Rev helps Ithaca entrepreneurs grow their businesses to their fullest potential. At Rev, Brad Treat will provide a workshop on the Lean Startup Model. This session will quickly reveiw the BMG Canvas, and then focus on tactis for testing, changing, and validating your business model. We will discuss how to build a customer-focused business that wil enable you to design and launch a sustainable business that yields real results. We will conclude with an outline of the resources in our community available to aspiring entrepreneurs, including a tour of Rev: Ithaca Startup Works. 


  • One-on-One Coaching with experienced social entrepreneurs at GIAC

The coaches are:

  • Eldred Harris:  Eldred provides intensive, high-touch business coaching to entrepreneurs whose ideas build more roboust, diverse, and resilient local economies. With a focus on engagnign as many underrepresented, non-traditional, and young entrepreneurs as possible, he assists clients with idea visioining; identifying productive partners and resources; and-as critically-adjusting to the risks/rewards associated with entrepreneurship. 
  • Leslie Ackerman: Leslie is Director of Business CENTS (Community Enterprise Networking and Training Services), a community small business resource center at Alternatives Federal Credit Union in Ithaca. For over thirteen years, Lesilie has taught and coached small business owners at all stages of development, collaborating with a wide variety of community programs in the process. 
  • Jeff Furman: Jeff has been an activist for over 50 years. He has worked on many social justice issues including worker rights, land issues, and racial equity. He has been connected to Ben & Jerry's since its inception. He is credited with helping to write its first business plan and has been involved with management and / or the Board of Directors for more than 35 years. He is the Board's current chair. He also serves on the Boards of the Oakland Institute and Edge Funders Alliance. His work often entails connecting the business world with the activist's world. 
  • Gary Shaheen: Gary works to develop programs and improve policies that impact veterans in the areas of employment, housing and supportive services. He is a nationally recognized expert in mental health rehabilitation, individual and social entrepreneurship, homelessness, and veterans’ employment issues.
  • Big Red MicroEnterprise: BRM is a student-run organization through  Cornell University's Johnson Graduate School of Management that spurs microenterprise development by assisting self-employed individuals reach their business goals. BRM provides business coachign support to entrepreneurs to think throught their business strategies and tackle difficult business challenges. By offerning targeted business assistance loans to entrepreneurs, our goal is to contribute to the local community, supporting inclusive wealth creation and economic development. 

11:30 - 12:30 pm  Lunch and Closing at GIAC:

1:00 pm Sage Hall, Cornell (optional)

Return to Cornell to listen to the final presentations of the Random Hacks of Kindness Teams!



This event would not be possible without the generous support of our co-sponsors:  Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Engaged Learning + Research, Entrepreneurship at Cornell.


Our Past Institutes

The following information is available from our previous Institutes:

  • 2014, 2013 and 2012 Institute Programs downloadable to the right
  • 2014 Summary of Institute Participant Evaluations
  • 2013 Summary of Institute Participant Evaluations
  • 2013 Institute Pictures available in the slide show to the right
  • 2013 TEDxCornellU videos here
  • 2013 TEDxCornellU Program downloadable to the right