Social Entrepreneurship: The Best Schools & Programs

6) University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

The new ultra-modern Ross School of Business

Ann Arbor, Michigan, has always been a town with a social conscience. This year the Ross School is hosting the 18th annual Net Impact Conference which organized around the theme: “2020: Vision for a Sustainable Decade.” More than 2,500 attendees are expected for the Oct. 28-30th event. The business school boasts a Nonprofit and Public Management Center which has a declared mission “to equip future leaders in the private, public and nonprofit sectors with interdisciplinary insight that can help them operate more effectively when working for or collaborating with nonprofit and public institutions.” That’s a big mouthful, for sure. More practically, the center offers managerial know-how, insight into the intersection among public, private and non-profit enterprises, and courses in how societies mobilize resources against key social challenges. The center is not only available to business school students but also to students of the university’s School of Social Work as well as the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

The center puts on conferences, seminars and discussions to help students interested in pursuing careers in the social sector. A couple of recent examples: Last February, the center along with the B-school’s consulting club launched a mini-case competition in which groups of two to four students pitched solutions to provide a new game-changing strategy for the Charles H. Wright Museum. In recent months, the center also arranged panel discussions on “Putting Your Creativity to Work for a Non-Profit Organization” and “Sealing the Deal: Salary and Benefits Negotiations for Non-Profit Job Seekers” along with a talk by design consultants from IDEO on “Design for Social Impact.” Just as important, a Class of 2011 student from Google has organized a $200,000 fund for students to invest for social impact, the first such MBA fund.

Two specific and more meaningful programs are worth a mention: the Board Fellowship and the so-called Domestic Corps. Let’s take the fellowship opportunity first. It matches up MBAs with the  governing boards of nonprofit organizations in Southeast Michigan. You’re not a full voting member of a board, but you do get to attend all board meetings as well as serve on a board committee for a full academic year from mid-October through April. During the stint, you’re expected to complete a board-level project for the non-profit and commit roughly the same amount of time (typically four to eight hours a month) as an actual board member. The schools says the program is designed “to create a cadre of professionals ready to take on board leadership roles upon graduation,” providing MBAs  “with firsthand insight into the workings and procedures of an actual board, as well as opportunities to contribute to the board’s success.”

Meantime, the Domestic Corps is the school’s organized effort to gain summer internships for students with an impressive array of social enterprises. MBAs are paid $10,000 for the 10-week internship. During the summer of 2010, students worked with a wide range of organizations, including DC Central Kitchen in Washington, D.C., Net Impact in San Francisco, Teach for America in New York, and Focus: HOPE in Detroit. These are pretty interesting and sometimes intense temporary dives into the non-profit world. For example, Lisa Ingmarsson, who graduates with her Ross MBA in 2011, worked with the Environmental Defense Fund and Walmart to drive sustainability in supply chains, while Chris Zwicke, who also is graduating with an MBA in 2011, evaluated the potential for expanding the EDF’s Climate Corps into China and India and developed a preliminary market entry strategy for a pilot program.

In the fall of 2010, the Ross School listed 15 “non-profit and public management” courses in its catalog, though quite a few are more generalized courses that aren’t really specific to the social sector. An example: “Managerial Writing Fundamentals” or “Persuasive Management Communication.” Strip away these general courses and there were just four courses in non-profit or public management: “Solving Societal Problems Through Enterprise and Innovation,” “Leading Non-profit Organizations,” “Urban Entrepreneurship,” and “Business Strategies for the Base of the Pyramid.” There are other options at the School of Public Policy, the School for Social Work, and the College of Engineering, among other university departments and schools.

For a complete listing of Michigan’s courses in social entrepreneurship, go here:

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