Social enterprise to revitalize Appalachian region

The Marshall University Entrepreneurship program and the Lewis College of Business are hosting the first Appalachian Conference on Social Enterprise Thursday and Friday.

Assistant professor of entrepreneurship Jonathan Butler said those who attend the conference will be shown how social enterprise can work to reverse the negative impact coal, steel and other industries have had on West Virginia’s economy.

“These jobs aren’t coming back,” Butler said. “Social entrepreneurs are the future, because they are uniquely positioned to not only create jobs, but solve pressing social issues like the heroin epidemic, child abuse and extreme poverty affecting so much of West Virginia. West Virginia cannot wait for large companies to come in and save the day by moving hundreds of jobs into the state. Real change must come from within the state.”

Leaders from about 30 organizations are expected to present ideas on creating successful, pro-social businesses to benefit the Appalachian region at the conference.

Butler said it is important for students to take advantage of the opportunity to meet these influential leaders to build their networks and become leaders in social enterprise themselves.

“[Students] are the ones who are most likely to bring about change,” Butler said. “They have not been jaded by traditions and ritualistic norms that prevent older individuals from seeing problems in a new light.”

Butler said he hopes the ACOSE will become an annual event in the state to continue promoting the revitalization of West Virginia communities.

Those interested in the conference may learn more and register online at

The ACOSE is sponsored by the Marshall University Lewis College of Business, One Foundation, Rural Action, Generation West Virginia, the West Virginia University Department of Geology and Geography, Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition and the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development.

Rebecca Turnbull can be contacted at [email protected].