About SEA

Social Enterprise Alliance: Champions for Social Enterprise

Since its inception as The National Gathering for Social Entrepreneurs in 1998, the Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA) has been the champion and key catalyst for the development of the social enterprise sector in the United States.

Our Mission and Vision

We empower social enterprises to address basic needs and create opportunity for all.

Our vision is for social enterprise to reach its potential as a force for more effective and sustainable social impact. We empower social enterprises and social entrepreneurs with the tools and resources they need to succeed, and work to foster a social enterprise ecosystem in which they can thrive.

Our History

Social enterprise is a dynamic, growing and increasingly robust field. Upon the Alliance’s founding, however, social enterprise was a burgeoning field with little attention, structure, influence or connection. Six pioneers of social entrepreneurship (Jerr Boschee, Jed Emerson, Gary Mulhair, John Riggan, Billy Shore and Richard Steckel) recognized this gap and organized The National Gathering for Social Entrepreneurs in order to convene thought leaders and practitioners who could share ideas, lessons learned and networks in order to increase their impact. In the years that followed, the National Gathering became the Social Enterprise Alliance, a membership organization focused on advancing the field of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship.

What We Do

Today, social enterprises are addressing an increasingly wide variety of social issues, across every major sector of the US economy and in nearly every corner of the world. But social enterprise as a movement lacks the capital, recognition and unity needed to realize its true potential for change. No meaningful capital market for social enterprise exists and the U.S. government has yet to make social enterprise a policy or funding priority. Too few people recognize the term “social enterprise” on a national scale, and many budding social entrepreneurs lack the local and national connections necessary to advance their ventures. Resources on social enterprise best practices are fragmented, and ecosystem supports like capital, talent and policy remain insufficient to truly bolster a movement of mission-driven businesses.

As social enterprise and social entrepreneurship continue to expand across the United States, it needs a comprehensive vision, a clearly-defined perspective and a unified movement to attract capital for growth, effect government policy, facilitate cross-sector collaboration, raise consumer and investor awareness, and aggregate capacity and resources. Social Enterprise Alliance is the platform for such a movement of organizations and  individuals who dedicate themselves to social progress through social enterprise. In pursuit of these objectives, we support our members and ultimately advance the field by

  • Building national and local social enterprise networks – With 1,000 members and 16 chapters across 42 states, Social Enterprise Alliance is the largest network of social entrepreneurs, social enterprise practitioners, supporters and enthusiasts in the United States. Social Enterprise Alliance’s Summit is the most prominent social enterprise convening in the United States and has brought together leaders, practitioners and newcomers from the field since 1998. In between the Summit and chapter events, members of Social Enterprise Alliance can connect virtually by leveraging the Member Directory and Online Community to engage with peers, learn from colleagues and discover collaboration opportunities.
  • Raising awareness of social enterprise – Through national partnerships with organizations like America Forward, REDF, Catalyst Kitchens and Catholic Charities USA, Social Enterprise Alliance makes the case for social enterprise and works to create an ecosystem in which social enterprises can thrive. Social Enterprise Alliance gives members a national platform to raise awareness for their work by giving them access to an online social enterprise Job and Events Board and Marketplace. We promote their work through a robust Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and newsletter communications presence that advocates for member organizations and educates a broader audience about social enterprise.
  • Curating and sharing knowledge to build capacity – Through a variety of offerings including the online Knowledge Center, the most widely-read social enterprise newsletter and expert webinars, Social Enterprise Alliance is the go-to source for the intellectual capital which fuels social enterprise.

Our Values

As our network of members and partners work to address basic needs and change the lives of individuals worldwide, we are guided by the following values:

  • Foster Potential: We believe in the ability of social enterprises and marginalized communities to change the world. We work to expand and complement their capacity to create opportunity for all.
  • Embrace Inclusivity: We welcome people with diverse viewpoints, experiences and perspectives. We embrace difference within our team and serve as a space for people at all stages of their social enterprise journey.
  • Show Compassion: We keep the significance of our work close to heart. We work to fully comprehend the problems social enterprise seeks to solve, and in doing so seek to learn from others.
  • Encourage Change: We know that effecting change is necessary to fulfill basic unmet needs. We drive solutions forward with creativity and an entrepreneurial ethos.
  • Create Unity: We are a community of people committed to a shared passion for social change through social enterprise. We work together in pursuit of the common good by fostering connections, encouraging communication and convening the field.