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The Future of Business: Goizueta Social Enterprise

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Over the past few decades, social enterprise—the idea that business can be used to identify and bring about transformative societal change—has emerged as a new way of doing business. As Sally Osberg and Roger Martin explained in the Harvard Business Review, “typically, the aim is to benefit a specific group of people, permanently transforming their lives by altering a prevailing socioeconomic equilibrium that works to their disadvantage.” This hybrid approach blurs the lines between traditional business, government and non-profit sectors, and it’s attracting attention more than ever before.

In recent years, social enterprise has grown into a prominent area of interest for MBA students. In fact, some programs, including the MBA at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, offer social enterprise as an MBA curriculum concentration as well as programs such as Social Enterprise @ Goizueta, which is open to all students interested in the business of social impact.

To get an inside view into the role of social impact at business schools, we reached out to Goizueta to learn more about what they’re doing in the space and how it’s impacting their program and their students.

Peter Roberts, professor of organization and management and the academic director of Social Enterprise @ Goizueta, shared the following insights:

Peter Roberts: Why is social enterprise important to Goizueta?

Clear Admit: We began exploring the social enterprise sector in 2009, and then formalized our commitment to Social Enterprise @ Goizueta as a research center in 2012. Given the growing demands for more positive social and environmental contributions from businesses and markets, it is critical that business schools like ours develop a stronger point of view and an expanding stock of knowledge that will ensure that markets work for “more people, in more places, in more ways.

CA: Goizueta regularly offers social enterprise trips for interested students. What do these trips look like?

PR: When we travel with students, our main goal is to connect them with the issues and projects that we are engaged with on the ground. For our Full-time MBA students in 2017, this involved visits to coffee farms and dry mills in northern Nicaragua (to learn more about our Grounds for Empowerment coffee program). It also involved meetings with a number of innovative ventures run by women across El Salvador.

CA: What was the goal of this most recent SE@G trip?

PR: To fully appreciate what businesses and markets might be able to do in places like Nicaragua and El Salvador, students must first see the potential that is inherent in their people and places. They must then get a feel for the impediments that stand in the way of effective business and market activity within emerging markets. Finally, they must engage with the successful entrepreneurs who are developing business that are having immediate impacts, while serving as role models for future generations of entrepreneurs.

CA: How has social enterprise been interwoven into the core goals of Goizueta?

PR: Social Enterprise @ Goizueta is committed to understanding and supporting market-driven social impact across Latin America. To meet this commitment, we are engaged in research and field-based projects with several organizations and individuals in Latin America, including PRODECOOP, Technoserve and the Corrales family. We are also deepening ties with a number of entrepreneurs (like Tio Antonio in Granada and Lula Mena in San Salvador) who show us what market-driven impact looks like in countries like Nicaragua and El Salvador. Our student travel modules are designed to deepen these ties, while engaging our BBA, full-time MBA and Evening MBA students.

We also spoke with SE Chang, an ’18 MBA candidate at Goizueta, to get a student perspective on Emory’s social enterprise offerings. Chang recently returned from his mid-semester break trip with Social Enterprise @ Goizueta. In addition to exploring coffee farms and cooperatives in Nicaragua and El Salvador and visiting social enterprises, students also had the opportunity to work on community health projects, tour colonial cities, and participate in outdoor adventure activities.

Clear Admit: What was the most enriching part of your recent social enterprise trip?

SE Chang: The trip provided an opportunity to physically walk through the whole supply chain of coffee. We got to see everything—from where the farmers planted the coffee to where it is last packaged and shipped out—all while interacting with locals. We learned about supply chain conceptually and we discussed global strategies. You think you understand, but it’s so different to walk the same ground the farmers do every day and see how much actually goes into making coffee. It helps you see things in a different light.

CA: How did the trip fit into your overall educational experience and job preparation?

SEC: This trip and Social Enterprise @ Goizueta were actually two big reasons why I came to Goizueta Business School for my MBA. I want to learn how to apply the skills I have acquired in my career and in class to make a social impact. And the mid-semester trip was especially impactful for me because we got to speak to local social entrepreneurs who are passionate about making an impact in their communities.

CA: What other activities, programs, classes, etc. have you taken at Goizueta with a focus on social enterprise? 

SEC: I am currently involved with a few organizations at Emory. At Goizueta, I am an SE@G Fellow and a member of Net Impact. I am also on a team working with a non-profit organization from the Atlanta area as part of the IMPACT360 Catalyzing Social Impact course. In addition, I am a member of an inter-disciplinary team working on a project for a local non-profit clinic for refugees to strengthen the clinic’s mission to provide linguistically and culturally competent care.

CA: Why do you feel social enterprise is so important?

SEC: It combines the self-sustainability of for-profit businesses with the heart of non-profit organizations and addresses issues that traditional businesses or charities have struggled to tackle.

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