For the last six years I have taught at MIT Sloan School of Management in January. Always the theme of the course is social entrepreneurship. Over the years the emphasis on entrepreneurship and scalability has increased and the thought of the government as a partner is now discouraged. My version of social entrepreneurship--"using entrepreneurship to solve a social problem" ........is probably toward one end of the range of definitions of social entrepreneurship. However, it appears the students appreciate the simplicity of approaching the social problem as simply a new business venture. I think they find it simpler than wrestling with the hundreds of social issues that one might consider in other approaches.
So what did I learn:
- Students no longer are just trying to understand what social entrepreneurship is but rather are looking for tools that they can apply to their own social ventures
- Students are coming to realize that a business can relax the profit constraint in order to share value with customers, suppliers, employees and other stakeholders. Milton Friedman's "maximize shareholder wealth" was a formidable obstacle but it looks like capitalism may be mellowing to consider a wider group of beneficiaries. (According to a 2011 Harvard study of 180 large U.S. companies, the stock price of companies with robust [Corporate Social Responsibility] programs outperformed those with a low CSR commitment by 65 percent over an 18-year period (1992-2010.)
- Talking about social entrepreneurship in terms of business model appears to help the creativity of the students. Breaking the business down into parts makes it easier to see opportunities for innovation and value creation.
- We can teach entrepreneurship to younger and younger students. The undergrad students in my class had no business background and did just as well as the graduate students.