The Best B-Schools For Social Entrepreneurship

MBAs aren't just for i-bankers and consultants anymore

It’s a philosophy that has become the motivation for an increasingly larger pool of MBAs that is helping to fuel a boom in social entrepreneurship. As greater numbers of young people dedicate themselves to social enterprise, more and more business schools are also getting into the act.

3) Stanford Graduate School of Business

Stanford’s Graduate School of Business

Thanks to Arjay Miller, the former president of Ford Motor Co. and one of the first prominent business executives to become dean of a business school, Stanford became the first MBA program to actually offer a certificate in public management. That occurred in 1971 when the school cobbled together its Public Management Program, PMP for short. It’s not an especially sexy name for the concentration, but it does represent one of the absolute best business school offerings in social entrepreneurship in the world.

In Stanford’s Class of 2010, 86 grads walked off with PMP certificates, off from the peak year of 2004 when 134 were awarded PMPs but the highest number since 2006. Stanford says the certificate requires a minimum of 16 PMP elective units, out of the 20 to 30 courses offerred, including an approved Economics course. Students may specialize in one of three areas — government, nonprofit management or socially responsible business. There’s also an annual public management initiative in which students explore a topic of social or environmental interest. Teams of students compete each spring to lead the following year’s initiative, with the winning team selecting a topic to explore in detail throughout the academic year. In 2009-10, students engaged in the question: “Debating Tomorrow: How will business change after the crisis?” The PMI topic for 2010-11 will be “Demystifying D.C.: Is America Ungovernable?”

Stanford was a pioneer in creating a way for MBAs who landed more lucrative summer internships to pledge to donate some of their earnings to help subsidize classmates who did their internships with non-profits. Stanford also was among the first schools to create a loan forgiveness program for students who took jobs in the public sector after graduation.

Most of the social enterprise activity at the school is part of a Center for Social Innovation. Each year, the PMP offers up to 30 electives in public policy, non-profit management, social and environmental entrepreneurship, corporate social responsibility, and philanthropy. Stanford’s special sauce for would-be social entrepreneurs is its ability to extend your learning outside the classroom through participation in a variety of domestic and global service learning trips, internships, clubs, conferences and speaker events.

Stanford currently lists 29 elective courses in social entrepreneurship. They range from “Strategic Management of Non-Profits,” a course that delves into strategy, governance and leadership issues in social ventures, to “Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability,” a highly creative course done in cooperation with Stanford’s D-School. This latter course is done in a D-School lab and is a one-of-a-kind opportunity in which students apply engineering and business skills to create product prototypes and business plans for ventures in developing countries that address challenges faced by the disadvantaged and the poor.

For a complete listing of Stanford’s 29 courses in social entrepreneurship, go here.

4) Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management

Kellogg School of Management

Kellogg offers an usual incentive to pursue social entrepreneurship at the school: seed capital to launch a non-profit. The school now has a social entrepreneurship fellow award of $80,000 to help a student launch a social venture post-graduation. Committed to using your business knowledge to make a positive social impact? Have an idea for a sustainable solution to one of today’s most pressing social challenges?

Kellogg students committed to addressing a social or environmental challenge through a novel, sustainable and well-developed vision engage in two rounds of competition for  the award as well as ongoing support from the Levy Social Entrepreneurship Lab.  In return, they commit to work full time on the venture and share their insights and progress with the Levy Lab. All students completing their degree at the end of the respective academic year are eligible to compete, but must demonstrate the willingness to pursue the endeavor full time upon graduation.  The business entity may take any legal form. The central mission of the venture must be oriented to make a social impact.

There’s other prize money available for would-be social capitalists at Kellogg. A Health and Wellness Challenge focused on improving healthy food access asks students to create competing business plans for a $7,000 prize with cross-functional teams of students from other Northwestern programs.

At Kellogg, much of the social entrepreneurship activity occurs under an odd acronym: SEEK. It stands for Social Enterprise at Kellogg. MBA students here can major in social enterprise, just as they can major in marketing or finance.

One of the first business schools to focus on public and non-profit management, Kellogg has graduated legions of students committed to various leadership positions within the civic community. The school has a Center for Nonprofit Management which helps to line students up with pro bono consulting assignments and summer internships with non-profits.

The school’s quarter system, in which classes begin in October, January, and March, allow Kellogg to offer a large number of courses for social entrepreneurs, along with quite a few hands-on projects. Teams of students have done marketing audits for social service nad arts organizations, development plans, strategic plans for major gift solicitations for an educational institution, and a marketing plan for a local youth job center.

Kellogg has several student clubs for MBAs interested in the social sector. There’s the Net Impact Club which helps to line up students with non-profits for projects, and there’s a Neighborhood Business Initiatives club that supports non-profits as well as small businesses in the Chicago area through pro-bono consulting services. Every quarter, the club selects several 10-week projects that teams of four to six students work on for that quarter. Besides the club, a non-profit dubbed Campus Catalyst is partnered with Northwestern to provide Chicago-area non-profits with high-impact, consulting services. Each quarter, the group picks five non-profits for 10-week engagements with teams of five Northwestern undergrads, all mentored by a Kellogg MBA student. The center also provides matching stipends of up to $10,000 for students who choose to do summer internships with non-profit organizations.

Kellogg currently lists 23 electives in social enterprise, ranging from “Leading the Mission-Driven Enterprise” to “Social Entrepreneurship in the Developing World.” The former focuses on the critical issues faced by non-profit managers and is specifically meant for students who want to start, lead, volunteer for, or consult with social enterprises. The latter course explores examples of innovative enterprises that make profits in markets at the bottom of the economic pyramid while pursuing social objectives.

Many of Kellogg’s electives are only loosely related to social entrepreneurship. For example, three of the 23 courses are on sustainability: there’s a “Sustainability Lab,” “Sustainable Investing,” and “Sustainable Strategy.” And there are other courses in the social enterprise category such as “Urban Public Finance,” which uses the tools and concepts of microeconomics to analyze how state and local governments operate and how their decisions affect the business environment. The course tackles how Chicago won the competition for the relocation of Boeing’s corporate headquarters and why property values are higher in neighborhoods with good public schools. Not exactly a course to help you become a social capitalist.

For a complete listing of Kellogg’s courses in social entrepreneurship, go here.