Social Entrepreneurs Are Being Pumped Out Of Elite Business Schools — Here's Why

ISB's new partnership with SAP highlights the surge in interest in social impact

The Indian School of Business has teamed up with cloud technology giant SAP to nurture social entrepreneurs — the latest example of elite schools promoting social enterprise.

The ISB-SAP Social Enterprise Jumpstart will identify five social enterprises and provide four months of training, mentorship and access to networks to accelerate their growth. The upstarts will also to pitch their business plans to venture capitalists and take part in a SAP boot camp.

It’s the most recent in a long line of similar announcements by top schools globally. They are increasingly throwing their weight behind social entrepreneurs.

“Entrepreneurship is core to ISB’s DNA and...We are now extending this spirit of enterprise beyond our students to help start-ups in the social enterprise space,” said Rajendra Srivastava, ISB’s dean.

And many schools are teaming up with corporations to tap into their expertise, networks, and funding.

In February, Stanford University received a $400 million donation from the founder of Nike, Philip Knight, to develop global leaders who can tackle society’s most pressing social challenges.

That followed an announcement from Oxford University’s business school, which received £3.7 million from hedge fund boss Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Foundation to develop social entrepreneurs, while INSEAD set up a similar scholarship for emerging market women in December 2015.

And Chicago’s Booth School, meanwhile, launched a scholarship for non-profit leaders funded with $4 million from the Neubauer Family Foundation.

“Our objective is to create investible and growth-oriented social enterprises that would address unmet social needs and create significant employment opportunities,” said Dilipkumar Khandelwal, MD of SAP Labs India. “We will provide mentorship and connects to technology experts to speed up the growth of the social enterprises.”

Business schools say they are seeing a surge in interest in social entrepreneurship among MBA students. “Students think they can have a big contribution to society by setting up their own social companies,” said Ignasi Carreras, director of the Institute for Social Innovation at ESADE Business School.

Ben Mangan, executive director of the Center for Social Sector Leadership UC Berkeley’s Haas School, added: “The shift is part of a much broader desire to achieve social impact through whatever you spend your time on.”

This reflects the changing attitudes of the millennial generation, which occupies most MBA programs. “We’ve seen a rise in applications from people looking for a purpose and for the business knowledge that our MBA program provides to make the changes needed to address real social problems,” said Bruno Lea, associate director of MBA Admissions at IESE Business School.

As a result, businesses from McKinsey & Company to even Goldman Sachs are offering students careers that have a feel-good factor, say schools.

“There has been an enormous increase in social impact-driven for-profit companies that are growing and looking to hire,” said Erin Worsham, director of social entrepreneurship at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.

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