Tony Muljadi: An Exclusive Justmeans Q&A, Part 1

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Tony Muljadi: An Exclusive Justmeans Q&A, Part 1

Don't think a business can make a profit while solving a social problem? Tony Muljadi, co-chair of Harvard's 13th annual Social Enterprise Conference, wants to make you a believer
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"Making money and making a difference can be two sides of the same coin" http://bit.ly/yt7nUo @Justmeans #socinno #Harvard @SEipmact
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 2:29pm

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It's hot. (Just like Jane Chen's Thermopod, a lifesaving, low-cost sleeping bag designed for the developing world that keeps low-birth-weight babies warm even when hospitals lose power.)

It's trendy. (Just like Lauren Bush's natural burlap FEED bag, which has helped provide more than 60 million school meals to children around the globe.)

It's growing. (Just like the mushrooms that are used to produce Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre's EcoCradle, an environmentally friendly, fungus-based replacement for foam packaging.)

It's social enterprise. And while it has its roots in the socially-minded work of such historical figures as Susan B. Anthony, Florence Nightingale, Margaret Sanger and John Muir, in today's capital markets it is still a nascent field. But it is thriving, thanks in part to a compelling message that is hard not to cheer for: Making money and making a difference can be two sides of the same coin -- a fair-trade coin made with 100 percent biodegradeable recycled materials, of course.

And #socent isn't just a trending topic in the Twitterverse. It's also gaining steam in the mainstream press. In December, Forbes published its first-ever "Impact 30," a list of the world's leading social entrepreneurs.

But as with any developing sector, excitement is tempered by fear, clamor can turn into chaos. And that's why so many of the practitioners, academics and students of social enterprise will be coming to Harvard University later this month for the 13th annual Social Enterprise Conference: To get a handle on this rapidly expanding area of profit-minded do-gooders. Co-produced by the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, the entirely student-run conference will take a close look at the current state of social enterprise and where it's going.

I had a chance to ask conference co-chair Tony Muljadi a few questions about the gathering and get his thoughts about social enterprise. In the first part of this two-part interview, I asked him about the theme of this year's conference, the role of social media in social enterprise and the ideal qualities of a social entrepreneur.

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Reynard is a Justmeans staff writer for Sustainable Finance and Corporate Social Responsibility. A former media executive with 15 years experience in the private and non-profit sectors, Reynard is the co-founder of MomenTech, a New York-based experimental production studio that explores transnational progressivism, neo-nomadism, post-humanism and futurism. He is also author of the blog 13.7 Billion Years, covering cosmology, biodiversity, animal welfare, conservation and ethical consumption. He is currently developing the Underground Desert Living Unit (UDLU), a sustainable single-family dwelling envisioned as a potential adaptation response to the future loss of human habitat due to the effects of anthropogenic climate change. Reynard is also a contributing author of "Biomes and Ecosystems," a comprehensive reference encyclopedia of the Earth's key biological and geographic classifications, to be published by Salem Press in 2013.

Keywords: Responsible Business & Employee Engagement | Ashoka | Harvard University | Social Entrepreneurship | social enterprise

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