Social Entrepreneurship: The Best Schools & Programs

1) Yale University’s School of Management

Yale’s School of Management

From its start in 1976, when SOM became Yale University’s youngest professional school, this institution has defined its mission differently. It was to educate not only business leaders but also leaders for society. To emphasize its dual public-private mission, SOM grads for years received a Master’s in Public and Private Management, not the MBA. In the mid-to-late 1980s, roughly half of the students came from public or non-profit jobs, with little or no business training or experience.

Much of this outward emphasis has changed. SOM has granted an MBA for some time now, and incoming students are more likely to hail from Goldman Sachs and the Boston Consulting Group than from government or social enterprise. Yet, the school remains deeply committed to social entrepreneurship. Ever since U.S. News began ranking specialty programs in 1993, Yale’s business school has come out on top in non-profit management, second to none. Yale’s success in this specialty ranking owes no small part to its early start. First impressions die hard. Still, this is a standout program for MBAs who as John Gardner once put it, “strive to alleviate misery and redress grievances, or give rein to the mind’s curiosity and the soul’s longing.” A partnership on non-profit ventures at the school brings together three strands of SOM teaching–entrepreneurship, business skills, and social responsibility.

The school currently lists 13 electives in its course catalog for non-profit types, ranging from “Financial Statements of Non-Profit Organizations” to the “Business of Not-for-Profit Management.” The latter course seeks to answer the following questions, some of them quite amusing: “How do not-for-profit organizations actually function? How do they attract ‘customers?’ How do these companies grow when there are no owners with financial incentives to grow the business? What are the core elements of a ‘good’ not-for-profit company? What are the metrics for determining the health of a company without profit? And, why would anybody work for such a crazy place?” Gotta love that last one.

Clearly, though, some of these 13 courses are stretched to cover the non-profit sector. Consider “Doing Business in the Developing World.” The course is a deep dive into economic strategies in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Even so, it’s a remarkably innovative take at a highly innovative business school for would-be social capitalists. One thing to consider: Yale is a relatively small school so once you get into a specialty area, it’s faculty is sliced and diced to tiny bits. While 13 courses represent a nice portfolio of options for the non-profit student, Stanford dishes up 29 different options for social entrepreneurs.

For a complete listing of Yale’s 13 courses in this area, go here:

  • Noncontributing robot

    THANK YOU for this list. It’s wonderful and has great summaries of the differences between programs. I have found this helpful! – Caitlin MF

  • Hi Rachel,

    I know it’s been a while since you commented on this but I am especially interested in the programs NYU offers and would love to learn more about the decision between going for an MBA or an MPA degree for social entrepreneurship. Any advice would be helpful! If you happen to see this I would love to connect- feel free to email me at lklach@bu.edu.

    thanks!,
    Leora

  • rohit

    I really like your thought process here.
    My long term goal is to have a social enterprise. But can u please explain in detail that how does mba helps in being a social entrepreneurs ??

  • Love it

    Talking Heads!

  • prospectiveSE

    It would be great to see this list updated!

  • Hank

    BYU’s Ballard Center has an AMAZING social entrepreneurship program – and BYU is cheap!

  • OhDenny

    Not sure if this person is actually an SOMer. I’ve never heard anyone say this about the program here. Take a look at the Global Social Enterprise program, our ties to the Aspen Institute, B-Lab, Agora Partners, dozens of venture philanthropy and social impact investment firms. We have a dozen SOMers in a mechanical engineering course that is studying the inventing process of micro-franchisable inventions in the developing world. We have economic development consulting firms coming to campus to recruit, considering us their core school. We have our Social Impact Lab speakers series, the loan-forgiveness and internship fund for folks who work for social enterprises or B-Corps, like Ecofiltro, (where a 2013er worked last summer), or Etsy, (where I’ll be working this summer).

    Apologies if you are an SOMer. I am just stunned as I find it hard to believe you weren’t privvy to these resources which are literally advertised all over campus. If you are here, let me know and we should go out for a drink some time.

  • currentyalie

    As a current student at Yale SOM, it needs to be said that the school is fantastic for the non-profit sector, but not as much for the social entrepreneurship or social enterprise sector. They are two very distinct industries and SOM does not come close to offering the support and resources that I have heard MIT and Stanford do. To sum up: SOM – great for non-profit work; not for social entrepreneurship.

  • Sharon, you have 3 options that I can think of:
    1) Apply to schools that provide scholarship. Ex. Skoll Skolars in the article
    2) Inquire into prospective schools about waivers. Many schools waive off tuition for students who enter the non-profit space
    3) If #1 and 2 do not work out, evaluate if an MBA is the best way forward. Would an internship or a paid stint at an existing non-profit or social venture be a better move?

    A 4th bonus option are free courses at Coursera, eDx & Udacity.

    Good luck and happy hunting.

  • First, I want to note that in your review of the social entrepreneurship curriculum at Haas, you failed to include courses like Social Finance, Social Investing and other courses offered through the school’s Center for Responsible Business that are also good preparation for social entrepreneurs. However, if you’re evaluating a school’s ability to develop “social entrepreneurs” solely by the courses grouped into a social entrepreneurship track, then you’re missing the whole notion of social entrepreneurship or how social entrepreneurs are developed. As a Haas MBA, and an early student of “social entrepreneurship” (I was in the first cohort of the REDF program Jed Emerson created that became a template for social entrepreneurship), I can tell you that the culture and MBA experience at Haas are about using one’s talents, training and education to have a meaningful impact in business and on society, and that philosophy permeates into almost every course in the MBA program—not just the one’s that are labeled “social entrepreneurship”. Even the school’s guiding principles are about being innovative and considering the greater good when making business decisions.

    When I chose to attend Haas over a decade ago, I did so because I wanted an MBA academic experience where I could learn how to apply traditional business principles to achieve social objective but not in the context of a nonprofit setting. At the time, no one was calling it social entrepreneurship, and even after I left Haas I was just calling it “the way Haas MBA’s think and approach business.”

  • Nick
  • Daniel F

    You should take a tool at BYU–Brigham Young University.

  • Sharon

    For those of us who can’t add another $150,000+ in student debt to what we’re already trying to repay, are there any reputable programs that are actually affordable?

  • Ashvika Dhir

    This is great Article. I am senior in high school and have created blogging Hub for social causes. I am looking for some professor  of social entrepreneurship to become a mentor to my me and my blog. I have Chair  marketing professor at  the Wharton Business school who has agreed to be my adviser but suggested to also contact professors of social entrepreneurship. 

  • Jennifer Kramm

    Helpful insight John, I appreciated the overview and the details of the course offerings. I’m just beginning my search for the right school and I’m glad I started here.

  • Karen,

    We’ll update shortly. A new list from U.S. News comes out this month.

  • Karen

    Any update or revision to this list since posting?

  • Rachel,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and knowledge here.we’ll be writing a lot more about this topic in the near future.

    Best,
    John

  • Rachel

    Hi John,

    What a great article! I’m an undergraduate studying Social Entrepreneurship through a self-created program and it’s so exciting to see that some of the best schools in the country are formalizing social entrepreneurship programs.

    I see from the comments below that it’s still a work in progress so if you are interested in further expanding your article (or writing more on SE) I thought I’d share a couple of important resources.

    While NYU Stern is a great MBA program you should also look into the NYU Reynolds Program, hosted in the Wager School for Public Service (http://www.nyu.edu/reynolds/social/index.flash.html). While not a specific program of study, it is considered to be one of the most developed programs for SE in the country and it’s especially interesting because it really focuses on multidisciplinary approaches to social entrepreneurship.

    It also might be worth noting that Wagner and Stern are ahead of their time, providing NYU undergraduate students the opportunity to study social entrepreneurship as well with the Social Entrepreneurship Minor (http://wagner.nyu.edu/undergrad/minors.php#socialentreprenuership). As far as I know NYU is one of the only schools providing these courses for early higher education.

    Thought you and your readers might find this stuff interesting. Hope it helps.

    Best,

    Rachel

  • John,

    That’s a wonderful idea. I would contact the career services offices of several of the top schools and simply post the job with them. This will immediately get you the eyeballs of all the graduating students and also those looking for internships next summer. Frankly, I would make sure there’s enough work for you to employ two summer interns and then make a job offer to the best of the two when they graduate. Good luck.

  • John,
    This is a great and informative piece. I am building a true social enterprise (For Profit and Non Profit) and expect both organization to be cash flow positive in 2012. The focus is around providing more access for kids in the world to play sports. I’ve started and exited successful startups in the past and believe having an MBA or two with a social entrepreneur background to ultimately run the enterprise is the way to go. Wondering if you have any suggestions of the best route to discover an appropriate candidate from one of the top 10 programs?
    Thank you!

  • Matthew Lambert

    I appreciate that the classic generalist top ten schools are listed, but Babson College’s F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business, has long standing been the global leader in entrepreneurship, and should be considered in talks of social innovation in connection with its Lewis Institute. Babson MBAs are taught with values of entrepreneurial thought and action and look to both public and private sectors to fill market gaps and create new ventures. I like the general article idea and would just suggest that it may be worthwhile to consider schools under a wider lens.

  • Very useful, thanks!

  • Hiya – good list, though it is worth pointing out that social entrepreneurship has always been very much a global movement, not just a US-centred one.

    Also worth considering those who provide learning for social entrepreneurs outside the traditional educational system, to reach a broader audience and provide appropriate learning and support for entrepreneurial individuals.

    See http://www.sse.org.uk for more

    Cheers

  • Thanks, Andy. My bad and fixed.

  • Amy,
    “B school insider and gadfly David A. Byrne has just launched”. I believe his first name is John, not David.

  • It is. The best way to be (unless there is a deadline involved). Take care.

  • Thanks Amy! It’s all a work in progress.

  • Mr. Byrne,
    I’ve already blogged on this post even though it is still in progress, as I found the content so interesting and enjoyed the writing very much. What I appreciate about the writing on your site is the way you employ an informative and insightful style on a platform (the Web) unsuited for sustained attention. I’ll be visiting frequently! Perhaps you would like to see my post: http://www.bluestarsadmissionsconsulting.com/2010/08/new-business-school-website-offers-in-depth-information-on-mba-programs/. I hope it does justice……Regards, Amy Morgenstern

  • Jeff, we now have the links you suggested, though the story is still a work in progress.
    Best,
    John

  • Jeff,

    Thanks for your comment. This will all come in time. I’m working on this piece and thought I would just put up what I have at the moment. Probably should have waited. Hope to have this complete by Monday.