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Best Business Schools for Social Impact, Part II

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On Friday, we began our coverage of the rise of social impact among MBA students and programs with a look at efforts underway at the Yale School of Management and NYU Stern School of Business. Today, we continue our focus, looking at the countless social impact initiatives in progress at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, sustainability measures Harvard Business School is implementing on its own campus, career resources for students seeking social impact roles at Oxford University’s Said School of Business and more.

Haas a Heavy Hitter in Social Impact Arena

The list of social impact initiatives at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business is long. The school’s Institute for Business & Social Impact (IBSI), led by Laura D’Andrea Tyson, serves as an overarching hub for an array of programs and centers focused on finding creative solutions to some of the most challenging issues facing society and the environment.

best business schools for social impact
Haas MBA students consult to organizations in the nonprofit, public and social impact sectors as part of Social Sector Solutions (S3)
Photo courtesy of Haas School of Business

One, the Center for Social Sector Leadership (CSSL), provides a wealth of resources for MBA students looking to become leaders in nonprofit and public institutions. On campus, CSSL initiatives include Social Sector Solutions (S3), which lets Haas MBA students hone their skills while providing valuable assistance as consultants to organizations in the nonprofit, public and social enterprise sectors, and Haas Board Fellows, which gives students the valuable experience of serving on nonprofit boards.

In an effort to provide social impact practitioners in the field with access to the same high-quality leadership training afforded to Haas MBAs, CSSL last year launched a first-of-its-kind global initiative providing free online courses covering the foundations of what it takes to make a significant social impact. Called Philanthropy University, it features a unique curriculum developed and taught by Haas faculty as well as industry leaders from McKinsey, Hewlett, Kiva and others. Its seven foundational courses—which cover topics including nonprofit strategy, global social enterprise and how to scale social impact, among others—are available, for free, to individuals working in the very organizations where those skills are most crucial.

The Institute for Business & Social Impact is also home to the Center for Responsible Business (CRB). Calling itself an “action-tank,” the CRB is designed to unite students, faculty and the heads of companies to redefine business in ways that ensure a sustainable future. One of its most recent developments: the launch late last year of a Human Rights and Business Initiative combining coursework and outreach designed to help companies devise their own human rights strategies.

The Haas Social Impact Fellows Program, also launched last year, brings leading experts in the field to campus to mentor students, serve on panels and share their expertise with the school’s programs, centers and faculty. Among this year’s seven fellows are Marianne Barner, a children’s rights champion who for two decades worked to eradicate child labor in IKEA’s supply chain; Paula Goldman, global head of impact investing at Omidyar Network, which seeks to advance the impact investing industry; and Jorge M. Calderon, founder and managing director of premier impact management and investment consulting firm Impact Strategy Advisors (ISA).

And in less two weeks, Haas will host its annual Global Social Ventures Competition (GSVC). Taking place this year in Thailand on April 1st and 2nd, GSVC is a unique competition founded by Haas MBA students in 1999 that brings together teams from around the globe to learn how to scale their ideas for addressing some of the greatest social impact challenges of our day. Thirteen leading business schools from the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America take part, and last year the competition drew 500 entries from almost 40 countries. Successful social ventures such as Kiva, Revolution Foods and Ethos Water got their start as part of the GSVC. This year’s finalists range from U.S. venture providing project management and financing for renewable energy projects in under-served communities internationally to a Taiwanese organization helping the elderly fight loneliness.

Sustainability Starts at Home at HBS

Harvard Business School (HBS) claims to have pioneered the concept of social enterprise with the launch of its Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) in 1993. Indeed, its more than 90 faculty members engaged in social enterprise and teaching have created more than 200 case studies on social enterprise that have been used to teach HBS MBA students as well as MBA students at other business schools around the globe. The SEI’s courses, cases and research center around two main pillars: nonprofit strategy and government and business for social impact. HBS students can choose from electives such as “Entrepreneurship in the Social Sector” or “Managing Global Health” and field courses including “Social Impact Investing” and “Social Innovation Lab.” Students lead the annual Social Enterprise Conference (SECON), which has grown since its launch in 2000 to be one of the most popular conferences on campus, drawing hundreds of students, alumni and experts from the field. The school’s New Venture Competition (NVC) also features a Social Entrepreneurship track, and teams in this track have made up a third or more of all entrants in recent years, the school reports.

best business schools for social impact
Harvard Business School introduces composting for 2015 commencement exercises

In addition to the ever-growing offerings within the SEI, the school is also taking significant strides to ensure that it is incorporating sustainability into its own operations. By operating healthier, more energy-efficient buildings, the business school has cut emissions on its campus by 45 percent and energy use by 21 percent. It has also implemented single-stream recycling, composting in dining halls, reuse collection stations during move out and donation of leftover food to local shelters and food banks. As part of an MBA Student Sustainability Associates (SSA) Program, 10 first-year HBS students contribute to ongoing initiatives and help educate their fellow classmates on the work being done and the ways they can play a role. And last spring, HBS brought composting to its commencement exercises for the first time ever.

Social Impact’s Global Reach

Growing interest in social impact extends well beyond the business schools of the United States. In the United Kingdom, Oxford’s Saïd School of Business reports that more than a third of its MBA students are actively involved with social impact events at the school.

best business schools for social impactThe Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Saïd provides a range of innovative social entrepreneurship electives designed to foster whole new approaches to social impact—ones that extend well beyond any current regulatory requirements. One course, “Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation,” looks at the subject matter through an international lens. Another, “Social Enterprise Design,” digs deep to understand the design and development aspects of social ventures.

Saïd MBA students can also take part in unique social impact projects. Students can choose between the Entrepreneurship Project or the Strategic Consulting Project. In the first, they are challenged to develop a business plan for a new venture providing a practical approach to addressing a real social issue. As part of the second, students work in teams of four as part of an eight-week consultancy project over the summer, working with a range of organizations around the globe that the Skoll Centre identifies as worthwhile enterprises to benefit from the help provided by the MBA student consultants.

The school also provides valuable resources to students looking to pursue social impact careers beyond graduation. Last month, the Skoll Centre and the Saïd Careers Centre teamed up to put on the fourth annual Social Impact Careers Conference: Launch. Thirty high-impact speakers—including Penny Fowler, head of the private sector team for Oxfam; Simon Abrams, EY senior manager for climate change and sustainability services; and Baljeet Sandhu, founding director of Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit—shared the varied paths they took to enter the social impact sector. The conference also included panels, workshops and career discussions designed to help interested students understand the less conventional recruiting processes used by some social impact organizations, as well as ways to make an impact in more traditional organizations, including multinational companies, government organizations and financial service providers.

“LAUNCH aspires to help those seeking fulfilling, meaningful careers by exposing them to opportunities to listen to and learn from those currently pursuing positions in purpose-led companies and enterprises,” Skoll Center Director Pamela Hartigan said in a statement. “It’s so refreshing to see so many organizations recognizing the valuable contributions MBA students can make, especially as many MBA students internationally are looking for careers which include creating positive social impact.”

The Wave of the Future: To Save the Future

To be sure, the programs highlighted here are by no means a complete list of business schools infusing social impact and sustainability into their graduate management education. UNC’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business features a well-regarded sustainability concentration, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business offers students the opportunity to concentrate in social enterpreneurship and take part in multiple programs through its Center for Social Entrepreneurship (CASE), and Stanford Graduate School of Business is home to the Center for Social Innovation, which brings together more than 60 faculty members who teach a wide-ranging social innovation curriculum.

Our recent profile of MIT Sloan alumnus Omar Mitchell showed how he’s putting his MBA to use to green the National Hockey League. Tuck MBA students sat front and center at the December COP21 Paris Climate Summit, bringing what they’d learned back to classmates in Hanover. And the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business boasts no fewer than 100 ways its MBA students can make a social impact, from serving on its Center for Social Impact Student Advisory Board to taking part in the Sanger Leadership Center Impact Challenge, designed to help support profitable ventures with social missions to serve the city of Detroit.

Student entrepreneurs, too, are increasingly focused on social impact. At Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business, the Zell Fellows Program—which provides support to MBA students who are trying to get ventures off the ground by graduation—this year features multiple businesses with very strong social missions, as well as its first-ever nonprofit. Professor David Schonthal, who heads the Zell Fellows Program, also teaches the “Discover” portion of the school’s new venture creation track, a course in which students bring problems into the classroom that they are passionate about solving. “Having taught this class to I don’t know how many groups of 50+ students over the past four years, more and more every year and every quarter these problems trend toward things with high degrees of social mission, impact, community orientation,” he says.

For as long as social issues challenge our countries and our planet, we trust and expect that business schools and the MBA students they teach will continue to rise to the challenge, responding with new and ever more innovative ways to confront and solve them.

Don’t miss the first part of this two-article series: Social Impact and the MBA: Business Schools Where the Two Are Synonymous