Given the current anti-corporate atmosphere on campuses as of late, with the Occupy movement, and firms like Goldman Sachs having trouble recruiting at Brown, etc. Do you think this will lead to an increase in interest and innovation in the Social Enterprise sector?
I don’t think “Occupy” will have a major impact on MBA students and the choices they make. I do think it is prompting interesting conversations that will hopefully lead them to come up with innovative solutions that build on the strengths of financial systems while creatively addressing weaknesses and balancing inequities. I think the “Occupy” movement might influence undergraduate students or graduate students in fields like public health, public policy, and social work more than in business studies – and hopefully will prompt students and professionals from across all sectors and disciplines to work even more closely together to solve the complicated social issues that we all face today.
What do you think are the roadblocks and problems the sector must solve in the next few years in order to maximize reach, funding and innovation?
Business models are needed that will allow companies to do good things for society while strengthening their financial sustainability. Finding better ways to use earned income ventures, debt financing and cross-subsidization are needed. It is also important to become more sophisticated about low-cost, highly leveraged ways of achieving significant social impact. Often one venture acting alone will have limited effectiveness, unless it can change the social ecosystem in which the problem is embedded. This ecosystem approach/thinking is something we teach in our courses and feel is very important to the success of the field.
Is there any group or individual that, in your mind, is moving ahead of the game? What are they doing correctly, and what could other organizations learn from their experience?
Some of the most exciting social entrepreneurial organizations to me are VisionSpring, KickStart, PlayWorks, KaBOOM, and Girls on the Run. They have all found reasonable business models for doing good and covering expenses while scaling up their programs to reach more people and have more impact. We think our group within the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) here at Fuqua is leading the way in the creation and dissemination of knowledge about social entrepreneurship.