Congressman Invites Rhode Island Social Entrepreneurs to U.S. Capitol

Mar 25, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – Two Rhode Island social entrepreneurs today travelled to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. at the invitation of U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI) to give a TED-style briefing to U.S. lawmakers on social enterprise.  Kelly Ramirez, CEO of Social Enterprise Greenhouse, and Amelia Friedman, a Brown University student and Executive Director of the Student Language Exchange, joined a panel including three other experts to discuss both the economic and public benefits of identifying and solving social problems. 

“Social enterprises serve as economic engines that create jobs, revitalize our neighborhoods, and rebuild our communities,” said Cicilline. “It is critical that we convene leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to develop and implement solutions to our social and economic challenges and I am delighted that Kelly, Amelia, and all the panelists will provide their insight and expertise to help promote this fast-growing business sector.”

Rhode Island is home to more than 140 social ventures, 41 percent of which serve populations with barriers to employment. In the last 5 years, these ventures have generated more than 700 jobs.  Last year, Cicilline introduced the Social Enterprise Ecosystem and Economic Development (SEEED) Commission Act to establish a Commission on the Advancement of Social Enterprise to examine ways for the federal government to support the goals of non-profits and corporations that primarily seek to provide a benefit to society.  Currently the legislation is pending before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“Social Enterprise Greenhouse plans to accelerate 300 social entrepreneurs in the next 2 years, increasing the total jobs count to 2000.  And these ‘do well do good business’ go beyond just creating jobs.  They improve our community through better educational opportunities, increased access to healthy lifestyles, and an improved environment,” said Ramirez.

"I have been incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by a thriving social innovation community at Brown and in Providence.  Social entrepreneurship has the potential to build sustainable solutions to our nation's most pressing challenges.  I'm honored to be able to discuss how we can better support social innovators and build the social enterprise ecosystem with Congressman Cicilline and the other distinguished panelists," said Friedman.

Social Enterprise Greenhouse supports Rhode Island social entrepreneurs by giving them the tools and resources they need to succeed and Friedman was awarded a Brown University Social Innovation Fellowship grant to launch the Student Language Exchange, which mobilizes international students at American universities to address the foreign language deficit.  In addition to the Rhode Islanders that participated in this forum, other panelists included: Michael F. Curtin, Jr., Chief Executive Officer at DC Central Kitchen & The Campus Kitchens Project; Maria Gonzales, Director of External Relations & Government Affairs at Catholic Charities USA; and, Kevin Lynch, President & CEO at Social Enterprise Alliance.