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April 15, 2010 / compassioninpolitics

Is Now the Time for University Programs in Social Entrepreneurship

It is definitively time for universities to launch social enterprise programs, not only to serve their students but also their communities. With issues like corporate social responsibility, conscious capitalism, and developing products for emerging markets in the headlines (whether those markets be in China, India, or Brazil…or a nation a little closer to the base of the pyramid like Haiti). Many students on campus want to be instrumental in creating change and making the world better but lack an infrastructure or resources–but one thing they aren’t short on is time, energy, and ideas.

The questions surrounding social change–particularly in the case of poverty are exactly the types of questions that should be considered by universities. They are uniquely qualified and should take up this cause as a mission. Bill Gates in a recent graduation speech at Harvard highlights the need for Universities which are sites of priviledged to take up projects, questions, and even staff members based on helping out the least disadvantaged:

Let me make a request of the deans and the professors – the intellectual leaders here at Harvard: As you hire new faculty, award tenure, review curriculum, and determine degree requirements, please ask yourselves:

Should our best minds be dedicated to solving our biggest problems?

Should Harvard encourage its faculty to take on the world’s worst inequities? Should Harvard students learn about the depth of global poverty … the prevalence of world hunger … the scarcity of clean water …the girls kept out of school … the children who die from diseases we can cure?

Should the world’s most privileged people learn about the lives of the world’s least privileged?

These are not rhetorical questions – you will answer with your policies.

Many universities have already taken a dive into this field in a robust fashion. For instance, Brown University’s Swearer Center for Public Service is a hub for social innovation and change. And leading academic institutions like Stanford (Center for Social Innovation) and Duke (CASE @ Duke) have robust commitments. Newer programs in this area include universities like Northwestern are taking up the gauntlet of social change with their Center for Global Engagement and the Global Engagement Summer Institute. Other universities are starting projects in conjunction with See Change Now. Participating include groups from Columbia, the University of Texas, University of Michigan, Duke University, Brown and others. Such activities not only will yield better students and communities, but also will help cultivate genuine a culture of public service in college communities. You can find more about top programs in social entrepreneurship here.


Leave a Comment
  1. Entrepreneur Blog / Apr 16 2010 8:58 am

    Universities are a hot bed of innovation, it would seem the natural progression to implement social entrepreneurship courses.

  2. compassioninpolitics / May 29 2010 8:06 pm

    Here are some additional ideas I’ve thought of as justifications for universities shifting in the direction of social entrepreneurship:

    1) Educational imperative (based on experiential and service learning)
    2) Ethical imperative/Educational Equality/Social Justice
    3) Economic imperative (more experienced students, better community development, better networks, and better university PR)
    4) Personal survival (with alternatives like “free” education, online education, globalization, and need for competitiveness for students)
    5) Talent optimization
    6) Market/community need (their is a void of services provided) Gen X and Gen Y are more service oriented and in search of “meaning” over just a paycheck.

    Of course all the reasons for experiential learning, apprenticeships, and service-learning.

    For more research on experiential learning–this is decent:

    (although I don’t think any above focuses on the issue of experiential learning in the college context.)

    The benefits of service learning in higher education:


  1. Social Entrepreneurship | Speak to Power

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