Photo courtesy of Ahmad Nawawi.
After seeing young social entrepreneur William Kamkwamba speak recently, I wrote a post wondering how we can find and encourage young people in remote areas who have the potential to change the world. While I'm not sure this question has been fully answered, there are some exciting campaigns, programs and organizations working to capture the entrepreneurial spirit for good. Today is Social Enterprise Day, and this week (November 16-22) in 85 countries including Rwanda, Lebanon, and Bangladesh, efforts as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week are meant to inspire young people to create innovative solutions to social problems. Last year, the first Global Entrepreneurship Week included almost 25,000 events in 77 countries and included more than 3 million attendees.
GEW is an opportunity for idea exchange, mentorship, collaboration and competitions meant to spur innovation among students, like the Global Innovation Tournament, which gives students a week to come up with a solution to a problem (this year, to make saving money fun) and post their results in a YouTube video. Other events this week include business pitch competitions, workshops on how to succeed in a struggling economy or take ideas to scale, speed networking events, and clean technology contests. Initiatives like GEW are encouraging because they provide additional access to young aspiring entrepreneurs and show that the entrepreneurship boom of my generation will be a social entrepreneurship boom. For more reasons why GEW matters, check out Nathaniel Whittemore's post on Change.org. Social Edge, from the Skoll Foundation, which has been promoting social entrepreneurship for years, also has a list of current opportunities for young people around the world.
For Millennials interested in getting a social enterprise-focused graduate degree, the options are growing as well. A few years ago I would never have thought of getting an MBA. I remember talking to one of my mentors about various graduate school programs, and he practically begged me not to get a Masters in Social Work. He said that while a degree in Social Work was admirable and helpful, it wasn't the only option if I wanted to make a difference. Business school, he said, was not just for investment bankers; it could help me run an efficient nonprofit or manage a government agency. Business skills can, and should, be used to help people. Not help them realize that Coke is better than Pepsi or help them decide they need another pair of kicks, but actually help them. Now after working with small nonprofit and entrepreneurial projects in Ethiopia and promoting sustainable economic development in the West Bank, I am fully convinced he was right. As Colleen Dilenschneider wrote recently, especially for our generation, social change is sector agnostic. The kind of sustainable change we want to see will be achieved through a mashup of the public, private and independent sectors, and I want to be prepared to craft that mix. Being profitable and doing good are not two opposing options; rather, they can be achieved at the same time, by the same initiatives.
And as I've been looking into it, I'm encouraged to see that business schools seem to believe the same because there are lots of great programs with a social edge. A few of the programs, many of which have emerged or restructured in the last decade, are below.
- The Center for Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at Duke’s Fuqua School promotes the entrepreneurial pursuit of social impact by teaching students to apply business skills to global problems. Founded in 2002, CASE offers social enterprise-focused coursework, career planning, internships and financial assistance.
- Yale School of Management’s entire MBA program encourages students to think creatively and take risks to improve the world.
- At the University of Michigan's Ross School, a partnership with UM’s School of Social Work and School of Public Policy created the Nonprofit and Public Management Center, which provides opportunities for students to serve on nonprofit boards, take special courses and participate in nonprofit consulting internships.
- Stanford Graduate School of Business lists two of its four key areas as Global Awareness and Social Innovation, recognizing both the far-reaching impacts of globalization and the social impact and responsibilities of businesses.
- Columbia Business School has a Social Enterprise program, which helps students align their personal and professional values in careers that result in social benefits to a broader community. The program's focus areas include Public and Nonprofit Management, International Development and Emerging Markets, Social Entrepreneurship, and Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability.
- The Haas School of Business at UC-Berkeley focuses on teaching students to lead through innovation by challenging conventional wisdom, being creative and collaborative and discovering how to seize opportunities. Students who plan to play in the public or nonprofit sectors can take advantage of the Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership.
- In 2005, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern launched the Social Enterprise at Kellogg (SEEK) program to meet the needs of students who want to do well and do good.
By no means exhaustive, this list is exciting just as a demonstration that some of the country's most well-respected schools are investing in leadership for social change, but even at schools which are not yet championing social good in their taglines and focus areas, Net Impact's more than 200 chapters provide business students with resources and networks to seek social and environmental sustainability. And most of these schools are also putting their money where their mouths are. They offer various loan forgiveness or repayment assistance programs, which provide funds to help MBA graduates who are earning relatively lower salaries (i.e. $80,000 or less) working at nonprofit organization or local, state or federal agency.
What other opportunities have you seen for budding social entrepreneurs? What kinds of opportunities are still missing?