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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:

  • 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