SAN FRANCISCO – The expanding field of social entrepreneurship has prompted The Commonwealth Club to launch a year-long program “Social Entrepreneurship in America.” This series seeks to explore the different dimensions and competing philosophies within this new and rapidly growing trend. A social entrepreneur is an individual who recognizes a social problem and utilizes business principles in a venture to bring about social change and create social capital, rather than merely profit. This program will include talks by social entrepreneurs, funders, academics, and corporations. Leading thinkers and practitioners in the field will share their thoughts and hopes for the continued progress of the field. The series featuringThe Skoll Foundation’s Sally Osberg, Ashoka’s Bill Drayton, amongst others, will run through March, 2011. Each speaker will provide insight into his own experiences, successes, and thoughts for the future of social entrepreneurship.

Social entrepreneurship has become somewhat of a catch-all phrase. Coined by Bill Drayton in the early 1980s, it originally referred to someone with the passion of an entrepreneur tackling a social challenge, such as Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America. Today, it has evolved to include new types of services such as venture philanthropy, which utilizes profit driven capital business models and applies these concepts to achieving philanthropic goals. Many new nonprofit organizations are becoming more effective by structuring their organizations in much the same way private companies do. The growth and success of social entrepreneurship and the relatively small group who is familiar with it demonstrates the need for extended discussion on the subject.

“We here at The Club applaud the efforts of individuals who are creating new solutions to social problems and positive changes in communities around the world. The growth of this sector demonstrates that one can be truly successful through the pursuit of fixing global problems,” said Club President and CEO Dr. Gloria Duffy.

The series has been developed by Dr. Ruth Shapiro, who has built several successful businesses around social missions. Her latest achievement was to create and run the Asia Business Council, a Hong Kong based membership organization of top CEO’s in Asia, committed to sustainable economic development. Dr. Shapiro comments, “The term social entrepreneurship is used widely today but few would define it in the same way. More public awareness of social innovation models and approaches would go far to increase public support and ideally, increase funding and activity in this area.”

Programs scheduled are:

July 27. Tues., 6 p.m. “Sally Osberg”
Speaker: Sally Osberg, President and CEO, The Skoll Foundation CEO of the Skoll Foundation, Sally Osberg, will discuss the evolving field of social entrepreneurship and her foundation’s role in identifying and supporting innovators who are pioneering effective, sustainable solutions to global challenges.

Sept. 14. Tues., 6 p.m. “Christopher Gergen”
Speaker: Christopher Gergen, Director, Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute, Duke University Gergen, son of CNN News Commentator David Gergen, will demonstrate how entrepreneurs can prove that the impossible is plausible. Christopher Gergen works as the executive director of Bull City Forward and co-authored Life Entrepreneurs: ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives

Oct. 7. Thurs., 6 p.m. “Mary Houghton”
Speaker: Mary Houghton, President and Co-founder, ShoreBank Corporation Founding the first community development bank in the United States that has expanded around the country, Houghton will share her experience in utilizing private sector mechanisms to bring about social change.

Oct. 26. Tues., 6 p.m. “Bill Drayton”
Speaker: Bill Drayton, Founder and Chairman, Ashoka Drayton, creator of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, put forward the notion that an individual person driving change is worth supporting, rather than an organization itself. He will share his belief that the need for entrepreneurship is just as strong in areas such as education and health as that of hotels and steel.

Nov. 17. Wed., 6 p.m. “William Foote”
Speaker: William Foote, Founder and CEO, Root Capital; Ashoka Global Fellow William Foote will share stories of the successes of Root Capital, a nonprofit social investment fund that has provided more than $120 million in credit to 235 grassroots enterprises in Latin America and Africa with a 99-percent repayment rate from borrowers and a 100-percent repayment rate to investors.

Dec. 8. Wed., 6 p.m. “Premal Shah”
Speaker: Premal Shah, Co-founder and President, Kiva Shah will discuss the effectiveness of Kiva, the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, which combines technology with social issues in a way that allows mass participation.

Jan. 12. Wed,. 6 p.m. “Jacqueline Novogratz”
Speaker: Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO, The Acumen Fund Novogratz, the founder and CEO of The Acumen Fund, a global philanthropic venture capital fund that has 26 investments in a number of developing countries in south Asia and Africa, will share her thoughts on sustainable businesses in the developing world, and how they have helped to shape the field of social investment.

Feb. 9. Wed., 6 p.m. “Matt Bannick”
Speaker: Matt Bannick, Managing Partner, Omidyar Network Managing partner of the Omidyar network, Matt Bannick, will discuss the philanthropic investment firm’s mission to help scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic, social, and political change through funding both nonprofit and profitable ventures, as well as several hybrids.

Feb. 23. Wed., 6 p.m. “Jed Emerson”
Speaker: Jed Emerson, Author, Blended Value Emerson, a social entrepreneur, funder, investor, and a critical observer of the field, will discuss his focus on advancing frameworks for assessing and tracking the value generated by social and cultural capital.

March 8. Tues., 6 p.m. “Louise Burnham Packard”
Speaker: Louise Burnham Packard

March 29. Tues., 6 p.m. “Kriss Deiglmeier”
Speaker: Kriss Deiglmeier, Executive Director, Center for Social Innovation, Stanford University Executive Director of Stanford University’s Center for Social Innovation and a social innovator herself, Deiglmeier will present her views on social entrepreneurship through the perspectives of a practitioner as well as an academic.

Founded in 1903, The Commonwealth Club of California is the nation’s premier non-profit public affairs forum, with more than 16,000 members. Based in San Francisco, The Club hosts speeches, debates and discussions on issues of regional, national and international significance. At least half a million people hear The Commonwealth Club’s weekly radio broadcasts on more than 150 public and commercial radio stations across the country. The Club also broadcasts on XM Satellite Radio, and recently began pod casting its programs. A selection of The Club’s programs is now also televised on Comcast Premium Digital Cable. For the past century, The Club has fostered free speech and civic dialogue on wide-ranging topics, addressing key issues in society, culture, politics, the economy and more. For more information, visit