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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