Social Entrepreneurship: The Best Schools & Programs

4) Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Kellogg School of Management

Kellogg offers an usual incentive to pursue social entrepreneurship at the school: seed capital to launch a non-profit. The school now has a social entrepreneurship fellow award of $80,000 to help a student launch a social venture post-graduation. Committed to using your business knowledge to make a positive social impact? Have an idea for a sustainable solution to one of today’s most pressing social challenges?

Kellogg students committed to addressing a social or environmental challenge through a novel, sustainable and well-developed vision engage in two rounds of competition for  the award as well as ongoing support from the Levy Social Entrepreneurship Lab.  In return, they commit to work full time on the venture and share their insights and progress with the Levy Lab. All students completing their degree at the end of the respective academic year are eligible to compete, but must demonstrate the willingness to pursue the endeavor full time upon graduation.  The business entity may take any legal form. The central mission of the venture must be oriented to make a social impact.

There’s other prize money available for would-be social capitalists at Kellogg. A Health and Wellness Challenge focused on improving healthy food access asks students to create competing business plans for a $7,000 prize with cross-functional teams of students from other Northwestern programs.

At Kellogg, much of the social entrepreneurship activity occurs under an odd acronym: SEEK. It stands for Social Enterprise at Kellogg. MBA students here can major in social enterprise, just as they can major in marketing or finance.

One of the first business schools to focus on public and non-profit management, Kellogg has graduated legions of students committed to various leadership positions within the civic community. The school has a Center for Nonprofit Management which helps to line students up with pro bono consulting assignments and summer internships with non-profits.

The school’s quarter system, in which classes begin in October, January, and March, allow Kellogg to offer a large number of courses for social entrepreneurs, along with quite a few hands-on projects. Teams of students have done marketing audits for social service nad arts organizations, development plans, strategic plans for major gift solicitations for an educational institution, and a marketing plan for a local youth job center.

Kellogg has several student clubs for MBAs interested in the social sector. There’s the Net Impact Club which helps to line up students with non-profits for projects, and there’s a Neighborhood Business Initiatives club that supports non-profits as well as small businesses in the Chicago area through pro-bono consulting services. Every quarter, the club selects several 10-week projects that teams of four to six students work on for that quarter. Besides the club, a non-profit dubbed Campus Catalyst is partnered with Northwestern to provide Chicago-area non-profits with high-impact, consulting services. Each quarter, the group picks five non-profits for 10-week engagements with teams of five Northwestern undergrads, all mentored by a Kellogg MBA student. The center also provides matching stipends of up to $10,000 for students who choose to do summer internships with non-profit organizations.

Kellogg currently lists 23 electives in social enterprise, ranging from “Leading the Mission-Driven Enterprise” to “Social Entrepreneurship in the Developing World.” The former focuses on the critical issues faced by non-profit managers and is specifically meant for students who want to start, lead, volunteer for, or consult with social enterprises. The latter course explores examples of innovative enterprises that make profits in markets at the bottom of the economic pyramid while pursuing social objectives.

Many of Kellogg’s electives are only loosely related to social entrepreneurship. For example, three of the 23 courses are on sustainability: there’s a “Sustainability Lab,” “Sustainable Investing,” and “Sustainable Strategy.” And there are other courses in the social enterprise category such as “Urban Public Finance,” which uses the tools and concepts of microeconomics to analyze how state and local governments operate and how their decisions affect the business environment. The course tackles how Chicago won the competition for the relocation of Boeing’s corporate headquarters and why property values are higher in neighborhoods with good public schools. Not exactly a course to help you become a social capitalist.

For a complete listing of Kellogg’s courses in social entrepreneurship, 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


  • 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.


  • 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 ( 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 ( 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.



  • 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 for more


  • 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: 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.

  • 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.