Shane Chase joined reSET as Program Director in summer 2019. He recently spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about his move to Hartford and what’s on the horizon at reSET.
NAN PRICE: Why reSET?
SHANE CHASE: reSET hit a lot of criteria I had: It was working in and around social entrepreneurship, which is a lot of what my career has been focused on. It was also locally based, which was important to me because I grew up in New England.
I like that the work here is aimed at how to get entrepreneurs from Hartford to work in Hartford and stay in Hartford. With my experience, I hope I can provide support in a community that’s new to me—but one I’m quickly learning from, working with, and caring about.
NAN: What experience do you bring to the Program Manager position?
SHANE: I have a background in design, which I came into because I really care about working on sustainable projects. I started out in architecture, looking at understanding our built environment. I was also approaching things from the psychology side to understand our internal infrastructure, specifically looking at what gets in the way of us doing better in the world and our own lives. I found the answer is often design. A building may be designed to be productive, but if it has poor acoustics it won’t contribute to productivity.
From that perspective, a city may be set up to focus on bringing entrepreneurs to the area but what happens if there aren’t existing structures to broaden the view of who can be an entrepreneur and who can receive support wherever they are with their business?
I eventually went back to school to get a business degree. I wanted to study how to thoughtfully and inclusively design organizations: What’s the best format to get something started at a community level? Do you create a non-profit, a for-profit, or something in between like a social enterprise? What happens if you’re a worker-owned co-op versus a more traditional kind of hierarchical organization? What if you take that thinking and apply it to designing an organization?
From there I went on to do some consulting work for an LA-based design strategy consultancy called verynice that donated 50% of its work to nonprofits. So, I did half of my work pro bono and half for profit. It was a good experience for me to see how a social entrepreneurial business model worked.
NAN: What will you be working on as you step into your new role as Program Director?
SHANE: In terms of helping companies implement a social impact business model, we’ve been talking about how we can broaden our support. The programs we’ve traditionally offered, like our accelerator, have been focused on early-stage startups. We don’t require participating businesses to have an intention of being a social enterprise or have a social impact model completely hashed out. But we see so much opportunity for any organization to think about how to incorporate some type of impact model, a way of developing net positive social environmental impact in the world and in the community.
From what I’ve seen of past accelerator participants, there’s been opportunity to make their companies more sustainable, for example with workforce development. How do you think thoughtfully about who you’re employing and how you’re recruiting?
In terms of the future, reSET is looking at working with startups or existing businesses that are further along or working with nonprofits that are trying to do similar work. We see ourselves forming potential partnerships with the government to pilot new programs or help with some of Hartford’s broader goals.
The big question is: How can we also use the tools we’re teaching to better our own offerings? If we’re taking startups through an accelerator, how do we also apply the same type of thinking so we can stay current and provide more impact through the services we offer? So, we’re looking at what got us to where we are now, where we want to go next, and how to test out different ways to get there.
NAN: Let’s talk about your move to Hartford. As a transplant to the area, what do you enjoy most about the region?
SHANE: Coming to Hartford, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the entrepreneurial ecosystem. My family has also loved discovering all the different community pockets and local parks and businesses.
I see so much energy around entrepreneurship and so much activity around defining what makes Hartford Hartford. There’s a lot of discussion about how we can evolve and grow and what we want to respect from the past and bring into the present and future.
I’ve learned so much from some initial conversations—including this one with you. I’m starting to see there are many connections between key people and organizations. I can see there’s a lot going on within this community and I’m looking forward to becoming a part of it.