What should be in social entrepreneurship higher education courses?

By | August 1, 2013

Greg Dees, sometimes known as the ‘Father of Social Entrepreneurship Education’ believes that social entrepreneurship education should  blend theory and practice to develop a range of social, social and soft skills. He suggests activities such as:

  • Student role-playing exercises with client organisations ‘as long as there are opportunities for candid feedback’ from the client.
  • Observing community meetings and ‘debriefing the dynamics’.
  • Shadowing a social entrepreneur over a period of several months to understand some of the day-to-day challenges, or working with social ventures to work on ‘real-world problems’.
  • Having a guest into class who can talk about the complexities: what has worked and what hasn’t.
  • Interviewing different stakeholders – to understand how they define their  own situation and how they perceive any need for change.

Dees emphasises the need for authentic and engaging experiences within social entrepreneurship education, and not just spending a couple of hours helping out in a community enterprise.

He believes that there should be a difference in the education of commercial entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs. He argues that business schools are not necessarily the best place for social entrepreneurship education. Business schools, according to Dees, are good at teaching how to attract capital and build organisations in logical and linear ways. Students are encouraged to be confident and assertive problem-solvers.

But when dealing with a community in need  confidence can look like arrogance. Social problems are often not ‘linear’ and solutions are multi-layered. In fact, Dees describes them as a ‘many player game with complex environmental factors’ and changing political and economic conditions. Dees maintains that social entrepreneurship involves emotional challenges. It can take time to build up the necessary trust with people in complex situations and doing the work well ‘requires a high degree of emotional intelligence’.

Dees believes that business schools are less good at understanding how to bring about social change. He would also like to see social entrepreneurship incorporated across a range of disciplines. Technical solutions can be combined with business and social change plans to solve social problems.

What would you put into a higher education courses to promote social entrepreneurship/innovation for the public?

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Full reference to article:

Worsham, E. (2012) Reflections and Insights on Teaching Social Entrepreneurship: An Interview with Greg Dees. Academy of Management Learning and Education. Vol 11. No. 3 443-452