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.

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.

8) University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School

Statue of Ben Franklin on the University of Pennsylvania campus

For MBAs who pursue careers in the public and non-profit sectors, Wharton has a loan forgiveness program that will provide up to $20,000 per year to help grads pay down their loans. It’s not a given, of course, because the program is competitive, but if you go the social sector route, you can keep applying for the program for the first five years following graduation.

So what does Wharton have to offer in social entrepreneurship? The Non-Profit Board Leadership Program (“NPBLP”) at the Wharton School was launched in the spring of 2005 with the goal of creating an experiential learning environment for students that would also support local non-profits. More specifically, the NPBLP seeks to provide second year MBAs with a greater sense of how their leadership skills can be used to make a significant contribution within the non-profit sector. The program is rooted in a commitment to serving the long-term needs of non-profit organizations in the Philadelphia area. Together, it is envisioned that both Wharton and local non-profits can help each other succeed and achieve a rich understanding of the growing intersection between business and non-profit activities.

A Social Enterprise Fellows program consists of two concurrent courses in the spring and fall semesters. In the first course the Social Enterprise Fellows focus on partnerships possible between for-profit, non-profit, and governmental sectors through study of social movements and creation of purpose-driven organizations. It is an interdisciplinary experience where the Fellows join graduate students from the Masters Program in Non-Profit/NGO Leadership, and Penn Law School students. In the second course, the Fellows take on one of three projects — pair with an existing nonprofit, private or government organization, create or expand a purpose-driven, 4th sector entity devoted to social change and sustainability, or conduct research in a related area. They aim to complete projects to meet the program mission of “developing the capacity for transformative acts of leadership that create sustainable economic and social value through cross-sector partnerships.”

9) Columbia University’s School of Business

10) New York University’s Stern School of Business

11) Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Business