A Growing NU Curriculum to Meet Global Needs for Social Entrepreneurs

by Dennis Shaughnessy

As the impact of social enterprise grows around the world, we in turn are growing our capacity to meet the market need for a new generation of highly motivated and well trained social entrepreneurs. 

Consistent with the unique mission and approach of Northeastern, our social enterprise curriculum is student-centered, practice oriented, and global. Our focus is on design, development and finance for enterprises working in poverty reduction and economic development in low income countries and communities. We teach students how business and business principles can be a force for global good, especially when inspired and informed young people lead the way toward positive change, meaningful impact and broadly shared value.

The Social Enterprise Institute is the platform from which we develop and deliver our academic and field programs, and we’re very grateful to our donors and supporters for their contribution to our efforts.

We now offer undergraduate students ten distinct courses in social enterprise, social entrepreneurship and BOP innovation, half of which involve a field research component.  These courses allow business students to complete a track in Social Enterprise within the Innovation and Entrepreneurship concentration of the business school, and all students to earn an interdisciplinary minor in Global Social Entrepreneurship.  Our minor includes complementary courses and field programs taught by exceptional faculty in international affairs, human services, anthropology and other disciplines within the university.

To build upon our work over the past five years, we have added a new faculty member to expand our social entrepreneurship research capabilities, Dr. Sophie Bacq.  Her published research is already highly regarded in the field, and we’re delighted to bring her research capabilities to our program.  Dr. Gordon Adomdza  has expanded his work in innovation and design at the base of the pyramid, and his important work will continue to enhance the student experience as well as lead to new research streams.

In addition to our introductory course in global social entrepreneurship, we have long offered a course in advanced microfinance.  We also offer a social enterprise “capstone” or project-based course in social enterprise, in which students develop, fund and implement with one or more field partners a meaningful social enterprise project, program or initiative.  Last year’s capstone class involved two projects supporting agricultural cooperatives organized to support poor farmers and their communities in Nicaragua. 

Two new courses arrive for the upcoming Spring 2013 semester.  A new course in impact investing, often called social venture capital, will also be offered initially to upper-class honors students across the university.  The new base of the pyramid innovation offering will also be offered in the coming term.  We look forward to introducing a new offering in urban engagement and social enterprise in the next academic year.

We will return to South Africa and the Dominican Republic in the summer of 2013, offering students the opportunity to put their learning to work in poor urban and rural communities.  Our applied microfinance and microenterprise consulting field programs, in which we work in partnership with local social enterprises and academic institutions, remain the centerpiece of our program.  Two intensive academic classes complement the field work, in which NU students study side-by-side with local African and Dominican (and Haitian) students.  We are looking toward expansion of these programs to two new locations in 2014. 

We feel privileged that NU’s leadership has supported us in our efforts to build a unique platform in undergraduate social enterprise education, and we’re excited about the future impact that our students will have in making the world a better place through business. 

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