Here’s What “Social Entrepreneurship” in MBA Really Means

Sociel Entrepreneurship MBA

The days of elite business schools pumping out the next cycle of profit-seeking corporate cutouts are (pretty much) behind us. Social entrepreneurship has become the new trend among the world’s top MBA programs, and candidates are flocking to these programs by the masses.

From the Program in Social Enterprise at Yale School of Management to the Global Impact Internship Program at Michigan Ross, students are illustrating that for-profit organizations are oftentimes the most equipped, effective and efficient at bringing about sustainable change and global impact. Is this another temporary fad that elite schools are appropriating to make themselves look less obnoxious? We think not!

Here’s the thing. Millennials (a controversial term, we know) from diverse disciplines and industries are starting to ask the same question. It goes something like this: “Where can I make the most impact and bring real value to the world?”. Millennials have gotten enough flack for being unreasonably ambitious early in their careers (i.e. trying to skip the menial work that every higher-ranking employee above them had to endure, and jump straight to partner/co-founder/supervisor status). We know.

Thankfully, B-schools see that the world is heading toward a more global, sustainable and socially conscious future, and they are feuling the leaders who will pioneer this change –  those same millennials we just talked about – with the resources, skills, and network to take it there.

Future? Global? Impact? All this sounds really good, right? Well, we still have to be careful not to blindly jump on the social entrepreneurship train. Like many new trends and patterns in the world of business school, “social entrepreneurship” runs the risk of becoming one of those buzzwords that sounds good to throw around, but no one really knows how to use it correctly…or what it even means. Let’s take things one step at a time.

“Social” – Basically, anything relating to people. Should be a no-brainer, right? But for our purposes, the fine print here is it must be anything related to all people. People from all corners of the world and all points of the economic spectrum. Especially people that hyper-capitalist and profit-driven business professionals and corporations have historically left behind. THIS is key.

“Entrepreneurship” – A word that has become rife with misconceptions all on its own, this one is a bit more tricky. Basically, anything relating to starting a business. The misconceptions come into play when people immediately link business to financial ROI. But for our purposes, the major ROI metric for social entrepreneurship is impact. There’s that word again…the one that millennials love to see not only in job descriptions, but also embedded in a company’s DNA.

MBA and Executive MBA programs at institutions like IMD know that one of the best ways to get that impact ROI from their students is to develop their mindset and outlook, which will help them adapt to the changes in the current marketplace and in the world years down the road. With courses like “Business and Society,” IMD understands that the private and public sectors have always intersected and work together to (for better or for worse) affect everyday people. BUT if you don’t found and sustain a successful social venture, that doesn’t mean you fail at being a social entrepreneur! The most successful businesses in the world are those that address some important social issue, whether through the actual product or service they offer, or through their corporate social responsibility initiatives. And that’s why even old, established corporations – those that elite business schools used to feed directly into – are actively looking for candidates with social entrepreneurship training who are ready shake things up as  “intrapreneurs” at their companies.

Does any of this sound like you? If so, you might want to situate social entrepreneurship as a central component of your MBA application and future career. You certainly won’t be alone. In fact, half of the 2017-2018 cohort at Duke Fuqua were social entrepreneurs. We normally wouldn’t advise anyone to jump on trends when it comes to their B-school application or career (or life in general). But this is a trend that matters. So we think it’s worth seriously asking yourself whether some form of social entrepreneurship is right for you.

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