Social Entrepreneurship: The Best Schools & Programs

7) Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

Duke University's Fuqua School of Business

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business

The core of Duke’s activity in this field is its Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship headed by its co-founder Greg Dees, a professor who has been dubbed “The Father of Social Entrepreneurship as an academic subject.” In a recent interview, Dees said that “Social entrepreneurs are more likely to be effective when armed with the best knowledge that can be gained from prior messy experiments. That’s a large part of what we do when we teach. We’re not teaching them to have the personal characteristics required to be a successful social entrepreneur any more than a music teacher teaches the personal characteristics to be a gifted musician. However, good teachers do more than teach. They also coax, encourage, inspire, reward, and model the kinds of characteristics associated with success. Though we don’t teach courage, for instance, we can inspire potential social entrepreneurs to act with courage by exposing them to people like themselves who have started social ventures. A teacher can draw out the potential of a student to be a social entrepreneur and most human beings have that potential if they want to exercise it.”

The center recently became a founding player in something called The Social Impact Exchange, a group that is attempting to become a focal point for studying, funding and scaling proven social purpose organizations. The Exchange also holds an annual competition to identify programs with the highest impact and ability to grow and support them with financial and consulting awards.

Like most other business schools, Duke has witnessed greater interest in social enterprise from its MBA crowd. “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,” says Paul Bloom, faculty director of the center. “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.’”

Duke began offering a formal concentration in social entrepreneurship in 2006 that requires the completion of six electives. The school says the focus is designed for students interested in using their MBA skills in the entrepreneurial pursuit of social impact. MBA skills are seen as valuable and much needed in the social sector, and the core MBA program should provide a strong foundation for any student looking to become a successful social sector leader. All told, the concentration is intended to expose students to the skills, knowledge, and perspectives necessary to pursue social impact entrepreneurially, effectively, and pragmatically. This concentration is designed to serve those students who aspire at some point in their lives to be social entrepreneurs, executives in social-purpose organizations, philanthropists, board members, or leading volunteers in their communities and the social sector. Courses in this concentration will also appeal to students interested in incorporating strategies for social impact into their business and entrepreneurial careers.

Duke’s elective offerings include some that focus on the use of business/entrepreneurial skills for social impact in different contexts; others that focus on MBA skills that are particularly relevant for the effective pursuit of social impact; others that focus on field or industry-specific knowledge; and others that provide opportunities for students to gain practical experience in the social sector. Students may also petition to include independent study projects or other Duke University graduate level courses for credit towards the concentration.

For an interview with Paul Bloom, faculty director of the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship at Fuqua, go here. For a complete listing of Duke’s courses in social entrepreneurship, go here:

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