Business schools drive a global boom in social entrepreneurship

Social Enterprise

Business schools drive a global boom in social entrepreneurship

Net Impact is building a network of social innovators between business schools around the world. Photo: Net Impact (flickr)

An MBA in social enterprise isn’t just for a few elites anymore. Studies from Harvard Business School and Bridgespan Group show social enterprise exploding at business schools around the world.

Course offerings that include social entrepreneurship doubled at top business schools over the last decade, according to the Bridgespan study. Perhaps more exciting is the rising popularity of partnerships with private companies, not only to provide consulting opportunities, but also for venture capital and incubator competitions focused on social impact.

Many of these programs have an international focus, too, with more than 90 percent of their students coming from other countries. Field placements in foreign countries are also becoming standard fare for these social impact-driven programs. Nonprofits like San Francisco-based Net Impact are building social enterprise networks so students from schools around the world can get together for business competitions, conferences and networking.

Here is just a sampling of the myriad programs around the world today, compiled in part from Net Impact’s 2012 Business as UNusual guide and The Aspen Institute’s 2012 Beyond Grey Pinstripes rankings:

  • Stanford Graduate School of Business. Stanford has arguably done the most of any program to incorporate social impact into its curriculum. Its Center for Social Innovation not only puts out research, but also offers field placements, summer internships and consulting opportunities for its students, and teaches some 29 electives in social enterprise. Stanford also publishes one of the top magazines on social innovation, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and has many well-known alumni leading the growth of the sector, including Acumen’s Jacqueline Novogratz.
  • Yale School of Management. Although only 16 percent of Yale’s 2011 graduating class went into the nonprofit sector, this may be because the school has a history of integrating business and social leadership. A whopping 98 percent of students surveyed by Net Impact said they were happy with extracurricular opportunities, making Yale one of the hot places to get a for-profit social enterprise going.
  • Kellog School of Management, Northwestern University. Northwestern gets its students involved in social enterprise, even if it’s not their main area of focus. The local Net Impact chapter, which has about 700 members, has won the chapter of the year award multiple times. Students also compete each year for an $80,000 seed funding award from the school's Levy Social Entrepreneurship Lab, one of several awards available to students with plans to start social enterprises after graduation.


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