Social Entrepreneurship Goes Mainstream At These Three Top B-Schools

Saïd Business School shows thirst for social impact

Oxford University’s Said Business School has received a £3.7 million boost from a top hedge fund to further develop social entrepreneurs — the latest example of top business schools placing more value on entrepreneurship with a tangible impact on society.

The Pershing Square Graduate Scholarship supports students who strive to find sustainable and scalable solutions to global challenges.  The Foundation announced an additional capital commitment that will fund five two-year scholarships to the Oxford 1+1 MBA, an MBA degree plus Oxford University master’s.

Pershing Square Foundation, of infamous investor Bill Ackman’s $18.5 billion Pershing Square hedge fund, is funding the endowment. It originally provided £4.5 million to fund the project. Total investment in the scholarship fund is £13.4 million.

Bill Ackman said the goal of the program is to encourage social entrepreneurs. “Big problems need big thinkers and courageous entrepreneurs,” he said. “We hope to draw upon a broader range of entrepreneurial young people as we work to identify young leaders who wish to make a difference in the world,” he added.

Peter Tufano, dean of Oxford Saïd, said: “It’s simply a chance of a lifetime to help shape and develop amazing individuals who can go on to make an outstanding impact on the world.”

Tarun Varma, one of the Pershing Square scholars, said the initiative has “nurtured my dream to have a high impact career in education”.

The announcement comes hot on the heels of one from Chicago’s Booth School of Business, which in January launched a new scholarship to support the non-profit and government sectors, funded with a $4 million gift from the Neubauer Family Foundation.

And INSEAD in December last year launched the Soraya Salti Social Impact Scholarship Fund, designed to aid young female social entrepreneurs from the Middle East, South Asia and African regions.

Careers in these areas have traditionally played second-fiddle to lucrative work in management consulting, financial services and technology. Now, however, a number of elite schools have said their MBAs are keen to pursue social entrepreneurship.

“Many of our MBA students believe that entrepreneurship is a way to make a difference in the world,” said Jeff Reid, who set-up the Entrepreneurship Initiative at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business.

“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.

MBA students have also shown a willingness to work in corporate areas with a positive impact on society, such as impact investing and sustainability consulting.

This is perhaps typical of the millennial generation, suggested Erin Worsham, director of social entrepreneurship at Duke Fuqua School of Business. “Studies have shown that this generation of graduating business school students is seeking companies that are aligned with their values and are making a positive difference in the world,” she said.

Wally Hopp, senior associate dean at Michigan Ross School of Business, emphasized MBA careers that focus on the triple-bottom-line, rather than non-profits: “You can make profit and do socially good things at the same time,” he said.

“Firms like Deloitte and others give full credit to young consultants who work on pro bono projects,” said Ben Mangan, executive director of the Center for Social Sector Leadership at UC Berkeley-Haas School of Business.

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