Reflections on the UIC-SEA Social Enterprise Certification Program

UIC Extended Campus provides learners of all ages with innovative and transformative courses and programs to further their growth as individuals. These programs enhance their growth as individuals and assists them in more fully participating in and contributing to society. Mirlene Dossous recently completed the UIC-SEA Social Enterprise Certificate via UIC Extended Campus and shared her experience and key takeaways with the UIC Business team. 

I’m currently a school district manager, supporting a network of schools with parent and community engagement as well as resource and leadership development. I have over 20 years of experience in the non-profit and philanthropy sector. My interest in the social enterprise program first started with a dear friend who started a social enterprise venture a couple of years ago. Recently, I began to assess what’s next for me in my own professional development and how to leverage my skills and experience into something greater towards impacting our community. This is where an advertisement on LinkedIn changed the course of my professional development and lead me to the UIC Social Enterprise Alliance.

It’s been an interesting 16 weeks of learning and Professors Renko and Lloyd kept us well informed, and access to the materials and classmates made it a well-rounded experience.

The class was a breath of fresh air to me, providing me with not only the knowledge of how to create a social enterprise, but the articles we read and the guest lectures provided additional learning opportunities. It was useful to hear what my classmates were working on and listening to the dialogue was highly beneficial. I know that I don’t speak up as much, so for me it’s important to listen. I do chime in, but only when I feel I have something to add to the conversation. I am most successful in smaller groups, so I found the team project especially enriching, as it provided a level of participation and engagement that I enjoy.

The team dynamic went well; we had a diverse team with varying experiences, which made us work well together. We respected what each other had to offer, and allowed everyone the opportunity to weigh in on the project and make final recommendations to support the goal of the team. I plan to keep in touch with both my team members as well as connect with others in the class to support their efforts or identify opportunities for collaboration. Being in the class has made me really flesh out what I want to do as a social enterprise and I have begun to write a plan on the focus and objectives.

I really enjoyed all of the articles we read, especially one in particular, “The Mighty Simple Workshop,” which really helped me think through, step by step, how to write a mission-driven pitch that is clear and concise. Coupled with the article on measuring social impact, these two articles were a huge “ah ha” moment for me. I began to lay out a draft of my plan and completed the seven steps in The Mighty Simple Workshop. In addition to our reading, Professors Renko and Lloyd shared some guided questions and tips that allowed us to take a deeper look into what is it exactly are we are trying to do, who we are trying to impact, and how do we know when we are successful? These are questions that help to drill down on details otherwise you would have missed.

I am excited to finally develop my own business plan. I now have a name for my social enterprise initiative, a vision, and a mission. Thanks to the UIC SEA class, I have the tools and resources to complete my plan and bring it to fruition. The class sessions seemed to go by quickly and I have learned so much about how to integrate a business model to address social issues, which will be a huge help to me and others around me. I am sad to see the class come to an end, but I am excited to see what the future holds for my new venture.

I’m currently working with a marketing and branding coach to work on creating a personal brand. I’m planning on having a soft launch on June 21st where I will pitch my social enterprise to friends, colleagues, and professors. This class was a wealth of knowledge and for that, I am grateful. I entered the class knowing very little of social entrepreneurship, but now I’m excited about the endless opportunities ahead.

I wish the very best to all my classmates and thank you to Professor Renko and Professor Lloyd for your guidance and support.