Support the students of the Social Enterprise Institute for their week long Spring Break Capstone Trip to Appalachia!

Social entrepreneurs and social enterprises have demonstrated through evidence how processes, services and products can be designed to generate economic wealth, and be beneficial to the environment and human well-being, creating social value, while accounting for negative outcomes. This action, of embedding blended values into hybrid business models, is the first principle of social enterprise: using business as a tool of economic democracy.

 The question of how social initiatives can effectively scale their impact to reach individuals and communities that benefit from their innovations has received increasing attention over the past several years (Sezgi and Mair, 2010). Adjacent to this question is the debate around the notion of “impact” as it relates to scale: specifically, how to define, measure and report on social impact, and whether social enterprises, unlike profit-maximizing firms, can really have an impact without scaling up.

 For this reason, there is perhaps no better subject than the interconnection between food production, consumption and health for studying the question of impact and scale of social enterprises.

 Most low-income urban communities experience “food deserts” where meat, dairy and fresh vegetables are out of reach and, as a result, fast food has become a prominent feature of the diet of children in the United States and, increasingly, throughout the world. Malnutrition and obesity are not only increasing globally, they are also increasingly interrelated. Around the world from India to Jordan to California to Cameroon, it is not uncommon to find under-nutrition and obesity existing side-by-side within the same country, the same community and the same household. According to the WHO, worldwide obesity has nearly doubled since 1980. In the U.S., more than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese. Statistics show that 1 in 7 American families rely on food pantries, and more than 38 million families were unable at times to buy the food they needed (NIH, 2011). This affects all races, sexes and ethnicities. Many low-income countries, like poor communities in the U.S., are facing this double-burden of disease. While they continue to deal with the problems of infectious disease and under-nutrition, they are experiencing a rapid upsurge in non-communicable disease risk factors such as obesity and overweight, particularly in urban settings. The need for innovative, scalable solutions is paramount.

What are the real causes of systems failure? Why can’t proven-solutions and good policies, both public and private, scale up faster and work for more people? What can social entrepreneurs and social enterprises offer as alternatives?

In the introductory, pre-requisite course, Global Social Enterprise (2206), students learned how social entrepreneurs and social enterprises challenge the status quo by identifying social problems, mobilizing resources and building networks to unleash market forces for social good. Despite enormous risk, they put everything on the line to see that their initiative succeeds, using the ingenuity and tenacity that comes from an entrepreneurial spirit, and a deep conviction in social justice and sustainable development.

ENTR 4506 is a deeper exploration of social entrepreneurship and social enterprise looking specifically at the barriers to scale for social innovations that address these urgent issues. By applying a range of tools, approaches and methods from different disciplines, students will have an opportunity to critically examine different models and strategies used by diverse stakeholders within a specific regulatory and economic context, and then develop a social impact framework drawing on a range of social entrepreneurial principles to successfully measure the impact of this social innovation, and determine its potential for scale.

This course relies on existing literature, research and practice in social evaluation, international economic development, business sustainability, local participatory governance and institutional change. It builds on the literature in social entrepreneurship and social enterprise, systems and design thinking, and collective leadership to examine, from an interdisciplinary perspective, the complex barriers and untapped opportunities to test and scale much-needed social innovations in food and nutrition in the U.S., and in low-income countries.

The course seeks to help students develop a conceptual and critical understanding of some of the ideas, tools and approaches employed by development organizations and enterprises whose mission is to create social, economic and environmental impact, and to skill students in using these approaches and tools in a discerning, ethical and effective manner that recognizes their shortcomings and limitations, as well as opportunities for innovation. Employing the case method and design thinking to emphasize practical, creative and analytical thinking, students become the examiners and creators of new approaches and strategies, not just users of them.

The Social Enterprise Institute will subsidize some of your travel costs, while the remaining cost will be subsidized through regular tuition. Students will pay the differential costs through fundraising. 

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