University of Wisconsin-Madison alumni and world-renowned philanthropists John and Tashia Morgridge are launching a new effort to bring a focus to social entrepreneurship in Wisconsin.

The brand new initiative debuts at the Force for Positive Change Awards on Friday, Nov. 18 at the Discovery Building on the UW-Madison campus. The day-long event will feature the best and brightest in social entrepreneurship from Wisconsin and beyond, culminating in four $25,000 prizes awarded to organizations leading the way in the state.

So what’s social entrepreneurship? Social enterprises are organizations which pursue pro- social missions, creating community and/or environmental benefit, and deriving financial self-sufficiency through the sale of a product or service.

The Morgridges were inspired to shine a light on social entrepreneurship in Wisconsin after winning the prestigious Global Stewardship Award from the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose in 2015. In creating this award and event here in Wisconsin, the Morgridges’ focus is on highlighting the tremendous social enterprises already making a difference in Wisconsin while also encouraging students, staff and faculty at UW-Madison and across the state to develop their own innovative and entrepreneurial approaches to solving challenges that have the potential to create positive impacts in Wisconsin.

Organizations all over Wisconsin are developing ways to generate revenue while working on community issues in every industry, from food to finance, from housing to human resources, from education to energy. Those organizations and the people that support them will come together Nov. 18 to learn and collaborate through education sessions, panels an awards ceremony followed by a strolling supper featuring exhibits and opportunities for discussion. The day will be capped with a fireside chat with leaders from Organic Valley and Clif Bar, two companies with on-going partnerships with UW-Madison, as well as from the national office of Feeding America, a two-time winner of global impact awards from the Tech. 

More than 175 for-profit and non-profit organizations applied for the four cash prizes to be awarded to the state’s most innovative leaders in social entrepreneurship through this year’s inaugural competition. John and Tashia Morgridge will personally reveal the four winners on Nov. 18.

“Wisconsin social enterprises are blurring the lines between traditional for-profit and nonprofit models," says Tashia Morgridge. John Morgridge adds, "This competition recognizes both the beneficial business outcomes and the beneficial impacts for Wisconsin of local double- and triple-bottom line business."

Registration is open, and there are opportunities for campus organizations to present during the strolling supper, with preference given to groups that apply by November 1.