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Social Good Instigators is a podcast featuring social entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders. While social entrepreneurship is not a new concept (the term was first introduced in the early 1970’s) it has been receiving more attention of late. The goal of each interview is to share advice from social entrepreneurs for social entrepreneurs. Our hope is that listeners will learn ways to ensure their endeavor succeeds and thrives.

This podcast was originally launched in July 2015 as The Nonprofit Leader’s Network Podcast. There were 44 episodes broadcast as part of that initiative that covered topics ranging from board development to program development to fundraising. There have been over 33,800 downloads so far!

What is Social Entrepreneurship?

You might be wondering to yourself what I mean by social entrepreneurship. While there are multiple definitions available (with some of those conflicting), I’m a little partial to the one the European Commission uses:

A social enterprise is an operator in the social economy whose main objective is to have a social impact rather than make a profit for their owners or shareholders. It operates by providing goods and services for the market in an entrepreneurial and innovative fashion and uses its profits primarily to achieve social objectives. It is managed in an open and responsible manner and, in particular, involves employees, consumers and stakeholders affected by its commercial activities.

Social enterprises can be for- or non-profit. I’m particularly interested in organizations that are meeting social service/employment needs and/or are funding their endeavors in unique ways.

Be a Guest on the Show!

Do you know a social entrepreneur who would have some good tips and wisdom to share? Please have them email and share what they’re up to. By using the subject line “I’d like to be a guest on the podcast” you’ll make sure your email gets read.

About Your Host: Kirsten Bullock

Kirsten is a Ph.D. student in Entrepreneurship at the University of Louisville (starting August 2017). She has 20+ years serving the nonprofit sector, first as a staff member and later as a consultant and entrepreneur. She’s launched (and sold) two brands including The Nonprofit Academy and the Nonprofit Leaders Network.

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Nov 30, 2015

In this episode of the Nonprofit Leaders Network Podcast series we welcome Ellen Rosenthal of Conner Prairie, close to Indianapolis, Indiana.

Conner Prairie has transformed from a very traditional outdoor history museum into a vibrant, busy family and educative destination, providing immersive learning about nature, technology, arts and crafts and the natural environment, all in a historical context. They are also the summer home of the Indianapolis Symphony. With visitations last year of just over 360,000 they are now one of the most visited outdoor history museums in the country.

Here are some of the highlights from our talk:


We believed at Conner Prairie that we were educating visitors by spewing information at them, but we were turning them off; they really didn’t want to take in reams of information when they were trying to have a fun day out. So we had to rethink what we were really trying to do, what was our mission and function in the community.

We used taped recordings of honest visitor experiences to show how they were confused and bored with our current offering, and how, when we changed that to encourage people to explore, be hands-on, and follow their interests, it resulted in much deeper engagement and satisfaction. It enabled us to move from what we thought we were doing into understanding what we really could accomplish, and that became the start point for our transformation.


As hard as we try as organizations to make assumptions about what our clients, customers or visitors think, until we really observe their behavior, stopping talking to ourselves, and honestly look at what is happening we will not get a true picture. We have to go beyond focus groups and traditional feedback forms, and find ways to look at how people are actually behaving, responding to our offerings. It is hard to do, but essential to bring about true transformational change.


At Conner Prairie we started this change in 2003. It probably took six or seven years for everyone to be really on board, including managing a significant governance dispute; when you start something like this you are in for the long-haul. Alongside the mission and offering change, there was a lot of other realignment and skills diversification happening at the same time. When you are working at capturing the hearts and minds of the employees and volunteers at a non-profit through periods of major change it can be a long and hard process. Their motive for being with you in the first place relates directly to their own identify and their belief in what you are doing. Being sensitive to that and making significant change to your organization takes time and sustained effort.

Visit for the transcript and additional show notes. for the transcript and additional show notes.