Meet our Newest TAN Affiliate – The Princeton Social Enterprise Network

About The Princeton Social Enterprise Network (PSEN)

PSEN is a platform and a resource for Princeton University alumni who are interested or engaged in social enterprise – the use of sustainable, market-based solutions to social and environmental challenges. PSEN connects and activates a broad network of Tigers – currently spread across the Princeton community – by aggregating, coordinating, and distributing social enterprise programming, resources, and networking opportunities.

PSEN achieves this through a two-part model: a simple yet effective online communications platform and a network of regional chapters, which activates the online community with regional events.

By connecting fellow Tigers to the resources, information, and support they need to establish and scale innovative social ventures, PSEN aligns the full energy, capability, and business acumen of the Princeton University community behind a shared goal of service through enterprise.

Who is eligible to participate?

PSEN is an open community for all PU alumni interested or participating in social enterprise. In the coming year, PSEN plans to launch a social enterprise mentorship program that will specifically target recent graduates and budding social entrepreneurs, and match them with accomplished mentors who can offer advice, support, and guidance. Though PSEN exists first and foremost to serve PU alumni, PSEN also intends for its Chapters to be regional resources.

What are the requirements of the program?

There are no requirements to participate in PSEN. However, as a member-driven organization, PSEN aims to cultivate and active member base that is engaged in regional chapter programming; contributing news, opportunities, and resources to our newsletter; and otherwise contributing to building a supportive community around social enterprise at Princeton.

What kind of opportunities in the nonprofit sector do you offer?

PSEN creates and publicizes opportunities for engagement in the social enterprise sector. Social enterprise describes the use of market-based models and strategies to advance a social or environmental mission. Social enterprises may be nonprofit, for–profit, or a hybrid structure (such as a Low-Profit limited liability company, or L3C).  PSEN convenes regional events that focus on special topics or informal networking and info-sharing. PSEN’s seasonal newsletter aggregates all career opportunities, events, announcements, and other resources submitted by members at and distributes the content to our national subscribers.  PSEN will also convene an annual Social Innovation Business Plan Competition, in which Tigers can compete for funding and exposure for their social enterprise business plans.

How long has your organization been up and running?

Roughly a year.

How did your organization begin? What inspired this organization?

PSEN originated in 2010 as a “social enterprise track” within the Princeton Entrepreneur’s Network (PEN) annual business plan competition. Princeton University, a world-class institution committed to excellence across disciplines, has yet to emerge as a leader in social enterprise. The founders of PSEN observed a distinct lack of coordinated social enterprise programming, resources, and initiatives within the PU community. Furthermore, PSEN believes that social enterprise is a compelling meeting ground for the Princeton University community and a powerful new channel through which to activate the school motto, “In the Nation’s service and the service of all nations.”

How are alumni involved in your organization?    

PSEN offers programming and resources for:

  • Older Alumni seeking late-stage career change, or opportunities to use private sector skills for social impact
  • Experienced social entrepreneurs who can offer thought leadership, mentorship, and guidance to young Tigers
  • Budding entrepreneurs seeking to launch a social enterprise
  • Recent graduates seeking professional or engagement opportunities that couple private sector models with mission-driven work

 Where geographically do you run programming? 

PSEN is focusing on dense metropolitan regions in the continental United States, Canada, and the UK. Currently there are 4 established chapters in the United States, with launches planned in LA, the San Francisco Bay Area, Montreal, and Boston.

How are you funded?

PSEN is currently funded by corporate sponsorship and expects to gain more sponsors as the program grows. PSEN offers a compelling value to corporate sponsors because of the reach of our newsletter and regional events. Sponsors receive publicity in all of PSEN’s communication channels as well as access to PSEN events.

PSEN has partnered with Princeton Entrepreneur’s Network (PEN) to accelerate the corporate sponsorship effort. PSEN is also exploring a commission-based incentive model to attract and retain volunteer resources in this administrative area.

What is the relationship between your organization and the University/College with which you are affiliated?

PSEN is a member of TAN, but is not yet formally funded or recognized by Princeton University. Rather than take a top-down approach, PSEN has decided to grow organically through our Regional Chapter model. This year, as we strengthen our existing chapters and launch new ones, PSEN will approach the University for official recognition and administrative and/or financial support.

Can you provide an example of a success story within your program?

In little more than 12 months, PSEN has grown from a “social enterprise track” within the Princeton Entrepreneur’s Network (PEN) to an independent organization with founding sponsors, a committed administrative team, revolving volunteers, four regional chapters, and a broad network of participants and newsletter subscribers. The consistent attendance and energy at Chapter launches and regional events has demonstrated a significant demand for social enterprise programming and resources in the PU community. Between 20-30 Tigers attended Chapter launches in each city to network, learn about PSEN, and listen to panel speakers. This summer the PSEN New York held a successful clean tech event with four experienced panelists active in the clean-tech sector.

What has been your biggest challenge or area of concern this year?

PSEN is an entirely volunteer-run, member-driven organization. Coordinating and growing PSEN is a second job for the administrative team. It has been a challenge to recruit and retain committed volunteers while also overseeing all aspects of PSEN’s growth, programming, communications, and funding. The team believes that compensated full or part-time positions are ultimately needed to scale the organization effectively. PSEN is actively seeking funding resources that will enable us to increase our administrative capacity and generate greater value for our members and the PU community.

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