The complexity, scope, and scale of the world’s environmental and social problems seem overwhelming and challenging. However, several initiatives started by Social Entrepreneurs around the world seem to be defying these obstacles to find innovative and unique solutions. Such social entreprenuership enterprises have been attracting the attention of large corporations, academia, charities and organizations with a need for understanding this phenomenon and replicating the processes for value creation. For example, while several parts of India seem to be grappling with hotter and polluted cities, a company called Grow-Trees is quietly doing something about it. This is an initiative started by Pradip Shah (HBS Graduate, 1981) and his son Karan Shah (Graduated from Harvard Business School in 2015). The idea is to gift a greener planet for the coming generations and so every time you celebrate a special occasion, a tree(s) are planted. In the six years that they have been functional, they have reforested over 4000 acres of land across eight Indian states.
Where to start?
The question about whether a budding entrepreneur needs an MBA from a business school or not has been debated forever. While there are equally valid arguments both for and against taking a course, one thing is for sure – MBA schools have progressed immensely in the last decade or so, customizing the education according to the needs of the environment. So, if you are seeking to set-up a profitable business or a social enterprise, an MBA from a recognized school will certainly set you off in the right direction. Why you should consider it:
- Guidance from professors: Nothing can be better than having a professor with several years of experience overseeing and guiding you with your project idea. Some of the top Business Schools such as Harvard’s Social Enterprise Initiative and Wharton’s Social Impact Initiative help you to increase your exposure through programs where you can interact with prominent social visionaries.
- Robust networking: With students from several parts of the world in your class, you are bound to be exposed to people with expertise in diverse fields. This can only work to your advantage as once you leave, you will have access to their expertise at the click of a button. The alumni of these business programs are one reason why students flock to such schools. The network can give them a huge head start in their careers.
- Resources: Business Schools have robust resources to help you to start your own enterprises. This could be in the form of the Innovation Labs, Entrepreneurship Clubs or mentoring through their Entrepreneur-in-house programs. Another great advantage of such MBA programs is that several business schools offer a “loan forgiveness” program for those planning to set up a Social Enterprise. For instance, the INSEAD program offers scholarships, loan forgiveness and a Social Impact Award for those students who show a strong commitment towards not-for-profit organizations or a for-profit Social Venture.
Best MBA Schools:
Business schools across the world develop some of the world’s best self-motivated and dynamic leaders and the leading organizations around the world pay top-dollar for such professionals. Their communicative skills, problem-solving ability and capacity to bring people together to achieve a common objective is what distinguishes them from other professionals. Such MBA graduates present an opportunity as such skills can be highly effective in transforming the society. Over the past decade, business schools have revolutionized education in this field. According to FT rankings 2017, the top three MBA Schools that rank the highest in Entrepreneurship programs are:
- Stanford Graduate School of Business
- MIT, Sloan School of Management,
- Babson College- OLIN
- University of Cambridge, Judge (UK)
- University of California, Berkeley Haas
- Dartmouth College, Tuck
- City University, Cass (UK)
- Carnegie Mellon, Tepper
- University of Oxford, Said Business School (UK)
- Columbia Business School, NYC
B Schools and their Contribution:
Internships: Stanford’s Social Innovation Review is doing path-breaking work by affording several resources to those attempting to become Social Entrepreneurs. Vidya Vasu Devan is currently a Partner of the Program Related Investments that manages the strategic investments for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation which picks students for internships from select graduate schools (Stanford being one of them) picked her for one of their pilot programs. Later, gathering experiences in hedge fund investing and investment banking she headed back to focus on the foundation’s investments in their programs. Her internship in Global Polio Eradication left a lasting impression and she wanted to contribute to changing the contrasts that she saw between the haves and have-nots in India. The challenge she says is achieving complex goals with several stakeholders in play. She believes that her time at Stanford played a huge role in helping her find a place with the foundation.
Programs to bring about change: Babson College’s F W Olin Graduate School of Business is constantly ranked amongst the top three for the pioneering work they do in shaping entrepreneurs who can create social and economic value simultaneously. They seek to create a living and learning laboratory where real-life problems of the society are addressed with the help of students and faculty. The school has recently launched the Business and Social Innovation Intensity Track. Here the students combine coursework and entrepreneurial experiences to expand their horizons. The idea is that these students can look at old problems of our society in new-light and come up with innovative and unique solutions that work. For instance, Savitha Sreedharan (Batch of 14’) is the CEO of Orora Global Inc. With a hunger to create something sustainable, her engineering background pushed her to take up MBA, Social Entrepreneurship at Babson’s. Her grit and determination to do something in the male-dominated energy industry gave rise to Orora Global. Her company seeks to eradicate the kerosene lamps sells a variety of clean energy/solar products (reliable and renewable energy sources) that power lights, cell phone charging, and other urban appliances. They train women of the villages to be their local entrepreneurs thereby creating livelihood opportunities. Her success she claims is as a result of the support she received at Babson’s, the access to Resources and the connections she made when her work was recognized.
Becoming a Social Entrepreneur means more than just having an intention to do good. It requires the functional skills and a business acumen to understand the circumstances in which these problems arise. What is required is an entrepreneurial mindset combined with some resourcefulness and imagination.