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.