Thursday, October 15, 2009

Business Schools Increasingly Focusing on Social Entrepreneurship

Social Entrepreneurship is gaining ground at business schools (WSJ):

This type of social entrepreneurship – that is, building a for-profit company with a social conscious or linked with a social cause – is becoming increasingly attractive to would-be business founders. The idea is to make money while either directly impacting consumers with its services or funneling a portion of profits to charities. Often, these companies employ people or source resources from economically depressed areas of the world that then also benefit from the charitable donations from the profits.

And with an increased interest in socially-responsible money-making, business schools have been pushed to create a whole host of courses and study tracks to help M.B.A. students sort out the best way to pull it off. Schools like University of Oxford, Cornell University and Dartmouth College have all seen increased demand for instruction in social entrepreneurship.

Some administrators say it's a generational progression of business-school students who have grown up more socially aware. Others say a lack of traditional jobs has spurred an interest in entrepreneurial ventures—and the focus on societal impact is partly a matter of trying to escape the stigma of the "greedy M.B.A."

"I think the interest in entrepreneurial ventures with social value [is about] more than the fact that people can't get jobs as easily," says Colin Mayer, dean of Oxford's Saïd Business School in the U.K. "There's also a sort of underlying sense of guilt about what happened during the crisis."

Obviously a company doesn't have to be a for profit enterprise to fall under the banner of social entrepreneurship. I also don't believe guilt from the financial crisis is much of a motivating factor. Social entrepreneurship's been on the rise for decades and has been a legitimate academic field for at least ten years. But the basic point that more schools are offering courses is very important. Traditionally social entrepreneurship has been taught in public administration departments with a focus on non-profit management, so it's definitely important to move to a broader conception and educational curriculum that reflects the true diversity of these entrepreneurs.

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