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The Executive Social Innovation Leadership Experience (SILE)

Riverview Gardens, Appleton, WI, Nov. 11th, SILE Encore! Presentation was held at the request of area non-profit executives.



The Executive Social Innovation Leadership Experience (SILE)

Can we solve social problems instead of managing them?

SILE is an executive education program for non-profit leaders and change-oriented stakeholders that focuses on issues and frameworks for the solution-minded. 

SILE emphasizes the mindset and application of successful social entrepreneurship: measurable, scalable and sustainable approaches to solving social problems that promote autonomy, new markets and equitable commerce. A leading figure in the field states, social entrepreneurs are transformative forces: people with new ideas to address major problems who are relentless in the pursuit of their visions, people who simply will not take no for an answer, who will not give up until they have spread their ideas as far as they possibly can (David Bornstein, How to Change the World, Oxford University Press).

This educational opportunity relies heavily on preparatory readings to shape group dialogue and a shared understanding of key concepts, as well as learning through case studies and presentations.  Ample time is devoted to participant group discussion and interaction.  A primary desired outcome of the experience is a mindshift: less contentment with managing social problems and more energy devoted to solving them, making a positive difference and achieving measurable social impact.

The participant selection process includes an emphasis on organizations that focus on basic needs, though leadership outside of this emphasis may be considered.  Executive coaching, 360 feedback, roundtables and social-venture-plan development, as warranted, are essential program components.  

The year-long journey culminates in a sharing of learnings with community leaders and nonprofit Boards of Directors. The seeds of social innovation were clearly planted by the first “graduates” of the program in 2011, and the second group of participants in 2013.

SILE is offered by the Office of the Provost's Social Innovation Initiative and J. J. Keller Foundation, funded by the Kellers and the U.S Venture Fund for Basic Needs at the Green Bay, Fox Valley, and Oshkosh Community Foundations.



2010 -2011 Participants

2010 -2011 Emerging Social Enterprises:

2012 -2013 Participants

2012 -2013 Emerging Social Enterprises:

  • Sober Living Houses: Michelle Devine Giese, STEP Industries
  • Driven to Empower: Julie Fevola, Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services
  • The Farmory: Noel Halvorsen, NeighborWorks Green Bay

Green Bay, WI, Sept. 12th marked the culmination ceremony of the second year-long Social Innovation Leadership Experience. Congratulations to the graduates! Over 125 leaders attended and three new social enterprises were announced, funded through the Basic Needs Giving Partnership, a new grant initiative in the Fox Valley.

DriventoEmpower sile



2013 SILE Encore! Presentation

At the urging of the participating executives, an “encore,” condensed presentation of the Social Innovation Leadership Experience (SILE) was presented by Jeff Snell, Ph.D., of Marquette University and Steve Kuper of Innovative Learning Strategies.  Participants explored how social innovation and leadership development intersect to equip nonprofits to move beyond managing their organizations to leading positive social change.

This by-invitation-only event was held Monday, November 11, 2013, at Riverview Gardens, Appleton. This “encore presentation” was offered at the request of nonprofit executives who have directly experienced this mindshift.

Participants learned the fundamentals of Social Innovation as it pertains to nonprofit organizations.  The program was specially geared toward 1) staff and Board members of SILE graduates, as well as stakeholders with a shared interest in the work of their organizations; and 2) potential funders of socially innovative initiatives that will begin to surface in the form of grant requests from nonprofits that have been on the Social Innovation journey through the SILE program.

Presenters included three social entrepreneurs and their unique models (startup, developed, and nationwide) and representatives building the social innovation ecosystem in Milwaukee (corporation, foundation, higher education, and government).





“Ultimately, we must understand the
need to be agents of change.”       

Pedro Arrupe, S.J.


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