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Heller College of Business Social Entrepreneurship Major

Posted: 12/06/2012

Roosevelt Review, Fall 2012 [ PDF ]

Roosevelt’s Heller College of Business created the area’s first social entrepreneurship major in 2011. It uses business knowledge to devise new ventures that generate innovative solutions for social impact. The curriculum is based on the philosophy that social transformation is produced and sustained in organizations that are as economicallyviable as they are socially-oriented. Students study entrepreneurial strategies that are both market-driven and socially-focused.

The social entrepreneurship major extends Roosevelt’s approaches to social justice by incorporating contemporary market-oriented perspectives to social movements driven by student action. The courses stir creativity and channel undergraduates to ventures designed to affect social change. The goal of the social entrepreneurship program at Roosevelt is to ignite in students their hopes and dreams to make our community and world a better and more just place.

Roosevelt business students are challenged to look at markets through a lens of inclusive economic growth and prosperity (e.g., economic and social value). Plus they learn how to think about the role of business and capitalism in fresh ways.

As Heller College students, they can use the College’s special Student Incubator space to sell their services and products and store materials. Alumni and others also are encouraged to enter an annual contest for free incubator space in Chicago or Schaumburg.

Roosevelt’s social entrepreneurship program has three core areas:

  • Global
  • Urban
  • Green

All are interdependent, but each holds an important place for the University’s mission.

Global

Roosevelt University students this fall are working with Sanergy, a sanitation company in Kenya and A Child’s Right, a water company in Tibet and Ethiopia.

Global social entrepreneurship is about “scaling up”—creating ideas that can solve a problem, such as the need for clean water, and then reaching as many people as possible around the world. By addressing global solutions to health, education and credit needs, social entrepreneurs can enhance social mobility and even cure preventable diseases. By focusing on access, global social entrepreneurship is a “hand-up” not a “hand-out.”

Urban

Students are developing an operating model and establishing a location for Chicago-based Global Girls, a theater and dance organization that travels the world. In addition, Roosevelt students are also supporting Street Wise, the company that publishes a weekly newspaper benefitting Chicago’s homeless. Interested Roosevelt alums have an opportunity to work with these organizations as well.

Urban social entrepreneurship is about establishing an organization to solve one problem and then using that platform for ongoing improvements. This strategic orientation does not dwell on the lack of existing resources or institutions in impoverished areas, but instead focuses on what is possible. For instance, if social entrepreneurs are motivated to reduce poverty, they must think beyond their own limitations and the nearby environment. Urban social entrepreneurship generally does not happen quickly, because it is about building community.

Green

During the fall 2012 semester, Roosevelt students started Ghabit to track green habits. Milesh Ghabit and Jill Collins won the Loyola University Social Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition for it and are submitting their business plan to other competitions.

Green social entrepreneurship is conducted in partnership with the University’s sustainability major. Undergraduates are encouraged to take sustainability and entrepreneurship courses to earn degrees in both areas. Sustainability integrates global and urban social entrepreneurship. When sustainability issues are handled properly, they can promote progress and a civil society. However, when they are handled poorly, economic shock and conflict may occur. Like all social entrepreneurs, socially-oriented students must seek opportunities to mobilize resources and accumulate the capital needed to pursue ventures. Through lessons learned in social entrepreneurial classes, Roosevelt students can become leaders to help determine how we can better manage resources and achieve a higher quality of life.