Along comes Ron Shaich, founder and co-CEO of Panera Bread, and most recently the creator of Panera Cares cafés. Panera Bread is among the most valuable publicly traded restaurant companies, with more than 1,600 restaurants and a market capitalization of more than $5 billion. Panera Cares looks and feels a lot like Dr. V’s Indian eye care hospitals, adding an innovative new twist to the idea of corporate social responsibility.
The past two months have flown by here. I originally planned to come here to independently research Kenya’s microfinance landscape—seeking to understand how Kenyans, both in rural areas and in the slums of Nairobi, use rotating savings and credits associations (ROSCAs) and accumulating savings and credit associations (ASCAs) to manage their finances— rather than the MFIs in the country. But then while co-oping in China and thinking about my experiences at Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, I decided I wanted to learn more about approaches to income development beyond increasing access to financial resources.
This past spring semester, I had the great fortune to be on co-op in Cape Town, South Africa working for TSiBA Education at the Ignition Centre. TSiBA Education is a tuition-free higher education provider that focuses on building future business leaders from South Africa’s pool of talented but poor and disadvantaged young people.
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.
Through my work with Heart Capital, I have been able to get into a Skype call with one of the creators of the Acumen Fund’s reporting tool, PULSE, and into the office of J-PAL Africa at the University of Cape Town. For students of social entrepreneurship or really anybody looking for an interesting and engaging co-op position, I highly recommend the one I currently have.