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Social Entrepreneurship Defines Meaning in a MBA

April 29, 2014 5:09 pm0 commentsViews: 1169

SocialEntrep

The MBA has long been the gold standard degree for enhancing one’s business career. Now, many MBA programs are tapping into professionals’ desire to improve the world, and to succeed in business. They are doing so by offering MBAs with a specialization in social entrepreneurship.

Why is this happening? Over the last 20 years, many people have learned that there are few things as powerful as a new, good idea in the hands of a top rate entrepreneur. When high quality entrepreneurs tackle social problems, amazing progress can be made. These entrepreneurs are highly ambitious and persistent, and they offer many new ideas to old social problems.

Social entrepreneurs reject the notion of leaving societal problems to the government or even the traditional business sector. They use their skills and their MBA to discover what is not working and then solve the problem by changing the system and spreading the solution.

Philanthropic & Profitable

This trend has in part been driven by the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. Many professionals started to look for a new form of capitalism. They discovered that social enterprises can provide a business model that is both philanthropic and profitable. As a result, they are coming up with all kinds of new business ideas that take on the social goals of a nonprofit organization, with the business goals of a for profit one.

Many of the top social entrepreneurs today are creating new organizations that are not exactly businesses or charities. They are hybrids that generate profits in the pursuit of lofty social goals. This idea is not entirely new, but this desire to combine purpose and profit is being seen more and more, with the proliferation of social entrepreneur MBA programs. Social entrepreneurs are using the US ‘benefit corporation” (B Corp) structure, which is a legal entity that creates both benefits for society and shareholders.

5 Keys to Success for Social Entrepreneurs

Whatever the structure of the organizations, with their MBAs, social entrepreneurs are coming up with new, innovative models of business that blend capitalism with solutions that address myriad societal needs around the globe. New hybrid, nonprofit/for profit type organizations are springing up around the world that are making a real difference in people’s lives, while also generating profits for investors.

For example, social entrepreneurs are dealing with healthcare delivery problems in Africa, and agricultural transformation in East Asia. They also are tackling the problem of public school funding in the US.

Education delivery is yet one more area where the principles of social entrepreneurship are hard at work. In Bangladesh, there is a social entrepreneur who operates a fleet of schools housed in trucks and buses. They provide mobile education to schoolchildren in highly rural areas, such as those that are affected by monsoon floods. Rather than just building a school house and telling children to come, this entrepreneur literally brings the school to the kids.

In Pakistan, the Pehli Kiran School System is a school network set up by social entrepreneurs. The schools serve the kids of impoverished workers who live in various illegal housing settlements. The police often raid these settlements and disband them. This forces the families to move on to a different place. the Pehli Kiran Schools move with them. The goal is to ensure that the children get a good education no matter where they live.

In rural Myanmar, two social entrepreneurs named Jim Taylor and Debbie Aung Din have vastly improved the delivery of critical agricultural development services. They operate a company called Proximity Designs, which is a new social venture that is developing inexpensive and innovative products that increase agricultural productivity. This entity employs product designers and ethnographers that work with farmers in rural areas. They come up with products such as solar lighting systems and irrigation pumps that are operated by foot.

8 Social Entrepreneur Ideas

Social entrepreneurs are working closely with local communities, and are incubating new innovations that bring new perspectives to old problems. Here’s a list:

  1. Go where other people are not – a Whole Foods store has done very well in downtown Detroit, as the community rallied around one of the few big grocery stores to venture into that market.
  2. Faith and values can drive business success – A food company named American Halal/Saffron Road is built around the Muslim faith, and it encourages healthy food and social justice, becoming the largest supplier of Halal food in the US.
  3. A soccer ball can change worlds – The founder of One World Futbol makes and distributes soccer balls that are almost indestructible. The company gets them in the hands of disadvantaged kids around the world, to encourage play and exercise.
  4. Be political – The key to social change often is in lobbying and advocacy.
  5. Corporations harm – Many corporations want to invest in clean tech, but choose not to because of the short term financial pain—even though many green investments have positive long term financial impacts.
  6. Place matters – Society must do more to support and improve communities.
  7. Money is a dangerous substance – Money tends to corrupt; few people can handle large amounts of money without being corrupted…We have to take responsibility for the way our money is used, including especially when it is invested.
  8. Not all impact investments work – hilanthropist and impact investor Bonny Meyer has learned by experience that some of the mission driven projects into which she has invested failed. She has nonetheless continued investing for social impact.

Social Entrepreneur MBA Options

If you are intrigued by the idea of social entrepreneurship, there is a quickly expanding menu of options that you can select from. As of 2011, more than 148 universities in the US are teaching some form of social entrepreneurship. Just 10 years, ago, there were almost no business school courses or programs in this area.

There currently are about 102 business schools in the US that offer an MBA program in social entrepreneurship. The top MBA programs in this specialization were ranked recently; some of the most recommended programs include:

  • Antioch UniversityMBA in Sustainability: This program, located in New England, strongly emphasizes social justice and environmental activism. The approach of the school attempts to empower its students to be change leaders, and to teach that organizations must operate in the present, but not compromise the future. This two year program can be completed on weekends, or there also is a one year accelerated program offered.
  • Colorado State University – MBA in Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise: In this well-ranked program, you will work on developing socially conscious enterprises that address real world problems. This program requires you to take part in a two or three month fieldwork project in a developing nation.
  • New York University – MBA in Sustainability: This is one of the larger American universities in the survey. This MBA program offers its students many entrepreneurship electives, and the program matches students with professors, alumni and various organizations based in New York City so they can engage in exciting, real world, socially conscious projects.

Social Entrepreneurship Videos

If you are strongly considering a career path in social entrepreneurship, be sure to review these featured social entrepreneurship videos:

Social Entrepreneurship – Stanford University

Key Traits of Social Entrepreneurs