“If I don’t do it, who will?”
That’s the mantra of today’s social entrepreneur. While disruptors like Craigslist and Uber have overhauled stale models and created new markets, Social entrepreneurs seek an entirely different outcome: To change society itself.
Make no mistake: Social entrepreneurs aren’t do-gooder dilettantes who form third world cooperatives as a hobby. Instead, they are often leading business graduates with a vision to stem growing inequality and environmental degradation. To do that, they apply business tools and resources to forge sustainable and scalable operations. In the process, they empower the marginalized and turn a profit. To them, business solutions are also social solutions.
Take the classic example of Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. Growing up in Bangladesh, Yunus was surrounded by poverty. While he pulled himself out, eventually earning a Ph.D. in economics from Vanderbilt University, Yunus never forget the financial and educational barriers that his countrymen faced (which were only fanned by famine, natural disaster, and civil war). Forty years ago, disgusted by the usurious loans made to vulnerable villagers, Yunus launched the Grameen Bank, which provides small loans (with modest interest rates) to the impoverished to help them launch businesses. And the model worked: Small loans reduced the risk of default to the bank. By trading in volume, Grameen Bank has reached over eight million customers covering nearly every village in Bangladesh (with 97% of its borrowers being women). In other words, the country created social value and was rewarded for it.
So how can business students replicate Yunus’ success? In April, the Copenhagen Business School will launch another iteration of its “Social Entrepreneurship” MOOC on Coursera. Think of this 12-week course as an primer on entrepreneurship with a social twist. Here, students will learn how to identify potential opportunities and markets, construct business models, draft business plans, attract investors, and measure their performance. But they will do so with a focus of transforming the society at large.
Even more, the course relies more heavily on online interaction than reading, with participants working in teams on creating a social enterprise. As a result, participants can inspire each other with their passions, test ideas, build a network of network of like-minded people around the global. Even more, they can get feedback from fellow students and faculty to make their plans more viable. In fact, the top projects will be shared with investors for potential funding.
But Social Entrepreneurship isn’t the only MOOC on this month’s docket. The University of California-Irvine is introducing nine courses where students can study at their own pace on topics like negotiation, decision-making, business writing, and management. For those who majored in the liberal arts, they’re launching a “Finance for Non-Financial Professionals”…a course destined to be among the most popular this spring. In tandem with Coursera, California-Irvine is offering certifications in areas like practical management and career readiness to help professionals bolster their credentials.
The Wharton School also returns with its popular Introduction to Marketing and Introduction to Operations courses, giving professionals a taste of what a foundational course from a top three MBA program is like. This month, Darden will also cover the ins-and-outs of project management, while the IE Business School’s “Critical Perspectives on Management” will question every assumption you’ve ever made about management roles, objectives, and evaluation. In addition, you’ll find courses covering big data, public speaking, and entrepreneurship.
To learn more about these courses – and register for them – click on the links below.