Social Entrepreneurship Project – EADA Business School

EADA Social Entrepreneurship– How do you engage students in finding business solutions to social challenges? Share your thoughts in the comments section below – 

EADA Business School in Spain places a focus on social impact in its strategy to embed sustainability and responsible leadership into its curricula and programmes. One of its student programmes is the Social Entrepreneurship Project, which gives MBA students the opportunity to identify a social need and then, in small groups, create a business-oriented solution to the problem. I recently had the chance to speak with Giorgia Miotto from EADA about this project.

1.     Briefly describe the Social Entrepreneurship Project. 

Social entrepreneurship (SE) is one of the most modern forms of enterprise, proposing innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. Social entrepreneurs do not leave unmet societal needs to be resolved only by the government or business sectors; instead, they find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to take new leaps. In most cases, for these solutions to be indelible they must also be profitable. This is why we created the Social Entrepreneurship Project at EADA. Its purpose is to provide MBA students with first-hand experience in developing and implementing a social entrepreneurship concept. Over the course of 3 months, the MBA student must identify a social need or problem and implement a business-oriented solution that is financially viable and has the potential to be replicated.

2.     How did the project come about?

The project was created when we identified the need to offer an activity within the MBA programme in which students could experience the different phases of a teamwork project, from formulating a concept to executing it. The social component creates an inspirational environment that raises participants’ motivation.

3.     What are some examples of projects that have been undertaken?

There have been quite a few successful projects, including:

  • Fair Trade Reusable Bags: A social business idea to import reusable bags for sale in Barcelona, which will encourage green behaviour and fair trade.
  • Braval: Promotes sports activities as a viable and healthy alternative for youth in “El Raval” district, thereby engaging them in Barcelona’s civil society.
  • The EcoMind Shapers: Educates the community about the environmental, social, and health benefits of using organic products for babies and children.
  • Green Moving: Aims to provide a transportation alternative in Barcelona by setting up an Electric Motorbike rental network.
  • Foto X Futuro: Initiated in Barcelona in 2010 with the 1st Annual Social Awareness Photography Contest project, this project aims to address the social problems communities face everyday. The 2010-2011 Contest objective was to generate awareness regarding the impacts of poverty.
  • Moragas Foundation: Assists non-profit organisations by using business knowledge to analyse basic aspects of their operations, resulting in an increase in their efficiency, productivity, and profitabiliy.

4.     What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

We would recommend organising everything carefully before starting a programme, since this kind of project is especially subject to unforeseen events. Despite the risks, we consider it to be a worthwhile endeavour since it allows students to really go beyond their boundaries.

5.     What are the next steps for the programme?

The Social Entrepreneurship Project is now a key feature of our programme and we plan to run it every year, hopefully expanding it and making it more impactful.

– How do you engage students in finding business solutions to social challenges? Share your thoughts in the comments section below – 

Innovation in Social Entrepreneurship Courses – 10 questions with Linda Sama from St. John’s University (part 1)

A few weeks ago, we looked at the work being done by the PRME Working Group on Poverty (part 1 and part 2). One of the members of the Working Group, Linda Sama from St. John’s University in the United States, recently won the 2012 Innovation in Entrepreneurship Pedagogy Award from the Academy of Management Entrepreneurship Division. The award is given in recognition of the development and implementation of a social entrepreneurship course. The course she developed, called GLOBE, engages students in managing a global microloan business.

I recently had the chance to speak with Linda about her innovative course and how it came about.

1. What is Globe?

GLOBE is an undergraduate 3-credit course in social entrepreneurship housed in the Tobin College of Business at St. John’s University and designed to provide students with the opportunity to manage an entrepreneurial global microloan business. This social business offers microloans, sourced through donations, to entrepreneurs in developing countries, providing them with a “dignified route out of poverty” in the words of microfinance expert and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Muhammad Yunus.

Working with field partners – the Vincentian Daughters of Charity – students organized into task teams identify loan candidates, vet loan applications, market and promote the program, create web-based documentation and social media sites, track loans, assess portfolio risk, and recommend new strategies to a governing Board of Directors. GLOBE has a strong web-presence and students have leveraged social media to advance the program’s goals, visibility and reach. The course runs every semester and has graduated 148 GLOBE student managers as of Spring 2012. GLOBE managers are mostly business students; however students from other disciplines are invited to apply. While learning how to be social entrepreneurs, the students assist entrepreneurial talent around the globe, offering business plan advice and financial literacy training. Students, in describing their mission as part of GLOBE, say: “We are committed to building a global community – starting here at St. John’s – that is going to contribute to the goal of eradicating poverty within our lifetime.”

2. Why did you decide to develop this program?

I conceived the idea of GLOBE in the fall of 2007 and, with the help of a Steering Committee, launched the inaugural course in Spring 2009. Inspired by Kiva’s web-based microlending program, as well as the work of Dr. Muhammad Yunus’ Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, I sought to amplify my research and teaching portfolio, which had been fully immersed in the literature on business ethics, sustainability and corporate social responsibility, with emerging work in the microfinance industry aimed at alleviating poverty. I wanted to find a way to leverage my research for meaningful learning and to engage students in a hands-on academic experience that would challenge some of the traditional views of the interface between business and society. In developing a social business, students apply their myriad talents to running a small enterprise with goals that are not predominantly focused on profits – a very new concept for many of our business students. I also sought to create a course that is truly interdisciplinary so that students might learn skills from each other.

3. What are some of the projects that students have done – some of your favourites?

Students are constantly coming up with new and exciting ideas for the program, and they often push us to reconsider the way we do things in an effort to improve upon the existing foundation of GLOBE. They have done excellent work in adjusting the program to better meet borrowers’ needs and in developing new ways to communicate and fundraise. Some highlights include the newly implemented interest rate calculation based on a declining balance method that the students developed. It took two semesters of students working on this to build a persuasive case for our Steering Committee to approve the change, which will benefit borrowers since, as a result of this new calculation, they will pay less interest over the term of the loan. Also, last semester, the students connected us to the Kenya – Daughters of Charity and their community via SKYPE. It was our first “live” connection with the field for the entire class and the students were completely responsible for making it happen

4. What have been some of the challenges and how have you overcome these?

Challenges have been many and each serves as a “teaching moment”. The challenges range from working within a set University structure to innovating a new program to working remotely with our borrowers and Daughters in the field so that loans are distributed appropriately, repayments are made to allow for follow-on loans, and entrepreneurial activities are supported through student efforts. We have overcome seeming structural barriers at the University by persevering when we receive an answer of “no” to a request; finding people on campus who are interested in what we are doing and eager to help – and then nurturing those relationships; and accommodating our program to meet the needs of the University, which are also many times very legitimate and sensible.

In terms of the field, we have had some heartbreaking stories of default – such as the woman in Kenya who unbeknownst to us or the Daughter there suffers from alcoholism. After she took out her loan and made a few payments, she fell back into drinking and has been unable to keep up her business. This has taught us the importance of understanding the challenges our potential borrowers may face physically and mentally, as well as financially, before burdening them with a loan. It also demonstrates the value of peripheral social programs such as sobriety programs to help borrowers be successful.

Part 2 will be posted on November 8, 2012

Certificates in Sustainable Business

Queen's School of Business Certificate Graduates

A growing number of schools are putting in place certificate programmes that give their students the flexibility to pursue a traditional curriculum while specialising in the topic of sustainability. Below are a selection of such programmes from the US, France, Canada and Denmark.

Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business and Management started offering their students the opportunity to pursue a Certificate in Socially, Environmentally and Ethically Responsible Business Practice in 2010. The certificate requires 8 units of course work, 6 units of elective choices and a capstone course on Responsible Business Practice. Students also need to be members of the campus Net Impact Club and get involved in events related to these topics. This programme is offered to all students enrolled in their business programmes.

The University of Georgia in the US has an Environmental Ethics Certificate programme that was founded in 1983. This interdisciplinary program incorporates coursework from the Odum School of Ecology, the law school and a diverse collection of departments across the campus, including philosophy, agricultural and applied economics, anthropology, history and political science.

Students at Queen’s School of Business in Canada can graduate with a Certificate in Socially Responsible Leadership in addition to their MBA. To receive this certificate, students must complete relevant courses, attend Responsible Leadership related conferences and speaker sessions, and engage in meaningful community volunteer work.  The certificate in the Commerce program started in 2004 and, in 2009, the certificate program was expanded to the School’s Accelerated MBA program.

In addition to their degree, Copenhagen Business School graduate students can choose to pursue a minor in sustainable business, which explores how innovative companies simultaneously attain social, environmental and economic business objectives. They also have access to a minor in Social Entrepreneurship and Not-for-Profit Management, which is intended to equip students with the instruments needed to develop earned-income strategies for charities and to launch social enterprises.

IESEG School of Management has recently set up a Certificate Programme in Sustainable Management. Students need to take a series of core courses and electives in the field to earn the certificate. They also need to do a work/study period of a minimum of 6 weeks at an NGO in Cape Town, South Africa.

Do you offer your students certificate programmes in sustainable business? Share your experiences in the comments area below.

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