How Fuqua Teaches Social Enterprise

Paul N. Bloom knows a thing or two about social entrepreneurship. He’s the faculty director of the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. In that post, Bloom leads the center’s scaling social impact research program and also teaches a course in Fuqua’s MBA program on corporate social impact management.

Poets&Quants’ contributor Kevin C. O’Donovan recently caught up with him for the following interview in which Bloom discusses the increasing interest in social entrepreneurship by MBA students, what impact the Occupy Movement will ultimately have on the social sector, and how in the world does a business school teach a subject like social enterprise.

Given the large increases in MBA tuition and the debt burden many MBAs inherit upon graduation, can many students afford to go the social enterprise route?

We’ve seen an increase in the number of students that come to The Fuqua School of Business interested in social entrepreneurship, students who are truly engaging with these issues in and out of the classroom. However, lower pay for social sector jobs coupled with higher tuitions and debt facing students often makes it difficult for students to choose a social venture path directly after graduation. Some do, but others choose to learn about social enterprise while in school, get a more “traditional” job post-graduation to gain experience and pay off their loans, and then see themselves shifting to social sector careers after that. But there is no “one size fits all” – we are also seeing a big trend in students wanting to work for for-profit companies that emphasize the creation of social and environmental benefits, such as B Corporations and impact investing firms. Still others see themselves going to work for large companies and becoming a force for social change within those companies. As the field grows, the options for MBA graduates who want to have a career of consequence expand as well.

Does the school have special programs to help offset some of the monetary sacrifices being made by students who pursue social endeavors?

Fuqua has several financial aid programs that are specifically targeted at students who come from or are going into the social sector. We support our students at several stages; students entering Fuqua can receive tuition assistance through the CASE Social Sector Scholarship program or through the Peace Corps Fellowship. The prospect of business school tuition can weigh more heavily on students coming from the social sector, so these financial aid programs have been created to allow exceptional social sector students to come to Fuqua and gain critical business skills without worrying as much about the financial burden of tuition. Once the students are at Fuqua, we run a Summer Internship Fund to help supplement nonprofit or government summer internship salaries and then support alumni through a loan assistance program post-graduation.

How do you teach this subject? Are there case studies? If so, what kinds of organizations and issues do they deal with?

We believe that in order to teach social entrepreneurship, there needs to be a mixture of teaching styles – including case studies, in-depth readings, student-led exercises, interactions with practicing social entrepreneurs, and experiential learning. To that end, we offer a variety of courses and a concentration in social entrepreneurship for our MBA students. For example, our “Social Entrepreneurship” course provides students with case studies (including for-profit, nonprofit and hybrid social ventures across varied cultural contexts and topical areas, e.g., global health, education, impact investing) and frameworks to help them understand the underlying theories of successful (and unsuccessful!) social entrepreneurs. We also teach a course called the “Global Consulting Practicum in Social Entrepreneurship” in which teams of students conduct real-world consulting projects with social ventures in developing countries and actually go to those countries over their spring break to conduct field work and experience the context in which these social ventures operate.

  • twicker

    You’re assuming that the only motivation that MBA students have for getting an MBA is to make more money. You’re also assuming that social entrepreneurship is only about non-profit organizations. Both of these are wrong.

  • SOMer

    I feel the need to express the flip side of the perspectives above.

    Although I do understand the cost-benefit argument above, as someone who has worked in and around the non-profit sector for nearly 10 years, I can tell you it’s actually where MBAs are needed the most. The social sector is changing, becoming more professionalized, and more competitive in its service to organizations and missions across the country and globally. With the advent of B-Corps, L3Cs, the loosely affiliated group of ‘social enterprises’ and non-profit consulting (the field in which I’m currently employed), there is a developing sense of cohesion amongst non-profit thinkers that strong business skills and leadership are needed in order to keep the sector thriving. Non-profits employ over 9 million people throughout the country, and account for 8% of the GNP, not counting the value of services they provide. Philanthropy is a $300 billion+ business. And I know many non-profit executives who (very rightly so) make 6- and 7-figures due to the demands of their jobs and the budgets they manage.

    But the main point is that it is a distinctly different philosophy that draws people to social enterprise and non-profit management. The ‘poor students that fall for it’ are typically not interested in making money as their PRIMARY goal, (for me, it is a secondary goal). Like an entrepreneur, they have a vision for solving a problem, filling a need, or creating something that is more existentially fulfilling than it is materially fulfilling. That isn’t to say that I hate money, or that I’m willing to rack up mounds of debt so I can do this – that’s part of why I chose SOM and their generous loan forgiveness program. I like having nice things, living in a great apartment, and going out and spending money. The reason why there needs to be more innovation in social enterprise is exactly so that people like me (there are a lot of us) can get to a point where it’s not such a ridiculous idea to help people and make money at the same time. The idea that non-profit employees have to constantly ‘sacrifice’ in order to do what they love is on its way out.

    People like me are exactly what AdComs are talking about when they mention ‘diversity of perspectives’. Just like I’m going to school to learn from bankers and consultants who are always concerned about the bottom line, the AdCom wants me to be there to provide them with a way to think about how that bottom line fits in with the rest of the community and world around the company.

    Again, I’m not arguing against the cost-benefit argument. It’s a big deal, and anyone who wants to go into social enterprise will have to wrestle with this ahead of time. But to say that we are simply falling for a ‘marketing gimmick’ with no thought to our own personal finances or the future of our profession is wildly reductive, and I felt the need to provide the other perspective.

  • Spearhead

    Social Entrepreneurship in an MBA program = MARKETING GIMMICK … and the poor students that actually fall for it (I know several in my program) end up with $1500/month student loans while making $90K/ a year… but these people can’t seem to be bothered by trifles like personal budgets…

    There is a reason that consulting and finance jobs are the most sought after in an MBA program – because they JUSTIFY the crazy student loans MBA’s have to take out… non-profits jobs (unless you have a full scholarship) are unjustifiable for an MBA.

  • Common

    This is totally disingenuous. It doesn’t make sense to get an MBA if you’re truly doing social work. You don’t make enough money to pay it off and there are routes that are much more direct. But there’s no downside for Fuqua here – Fuqua looks good for promoting this nonsense despite the fact that their social program is actually rather limited.