Friday, January, 29, 2016
By Deborah de Lange
Social entrepreneurship is a different and more difficult concept to grasp than is mainstream entrepreneurship, given our orientation towards business today. We understand the profit goal of the latter, but the goals of the former are harder to define. Once defined, how are they realized? A new set of paradigms are required to address these questions. Moreover, as we regularly discuss innovation as part of entrepreneurship, we similarly discuss social innovation alongside social entrepreneurship. For those of you who also write about this topic, you will know that definitions abound. It’s been stated that social entrepreneurship is, “Entrepreneurship motivated primarily by social benefit to address social problems or needs that are unmet by government and the private sector in a way that is generally congruent with market forces” (Brooks, 2009: 177). Also, a social innovation is an idea that aims to benefit a social goal or need (Mulgan, 2007) and must provide gains for disadvantaged parties (Bright and Godwin, 2010). A conundrum is that if the private sector has not been motivated to deal with the social (and environmental) issues, then it is likely difficult to find viable market solutions. Thus, social entrepreneurs take on a daunting task. So, with limited experience existing in social entrepreneurship, how do we design an educational program to facilitate it? How would we teach strategy, operations, marketing, finance and accounting for social enterprises? I think that these challenges represent a tremendous set of opportunities for innovation in business schools. We’ve been teaching variations on so many of the same topics for so long, isn’t a paradigmatic change invigorating?
Ryerson University has been moving ahead on many types of programs so as to begin addressing these aforementioned and other questions related to social innovation and social entrepreneurship. Pioneering new programs to support social innovation in education, faculty research, and start-ups means changing paradigms, not only in the business school, but across all faculties. For some examples, Ryerson is Canada’s first Ashoka Changemaker Campus, it is a RECODE campus, and among its many incubators called “Zones”, it has a Social Ventures Zone supported by the Faculty of Arts (rather than business). Thus, social innovation is part of Ryerson’s DNA.
Canada’s First Ashoka Changemaker Campus
Ryerson is changing paradigms by mainstreaming social innovation across the university. In becoming Canada's first (and, for now, the only one in Canada) Changemaker Campus, designated by Ashoka, Ryerson is reshaping how we think about the purposes of our core economic organizations so that they may become multi-purpose and measure success on a triple bottom line basis, thus moving away from a singular focus on profit making. At Ryerson, we have a range of ongoing “changemaking” activities, from student enterprise projects to research partnerships to community engagements. Ryerson’s social innovation initiatives address a variety of globally relevant themes consistent with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals are also consistent with my new role as a steering committee member for the new North American Chapter of the United Nations Principles in Responsible Management Education (PRME). The fundamental principles behind the PRME are also related to the SDGs. Thus, social innovation is being driven at all levels to enable paradigmatic change in our education systems. To learn more about Ryerson’s “Changemaking” or the PRME see these links: http://www.ryerson.ca/socialinnovation/about/ashoka.html and http://www.unprme.org/working-groups/display-working-group.php?wgid=3140.
Ryerson also received half a million in funding from RECODE, an initiative of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation. Ryerson will use this funding to offer social innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities to our students so that they may become drivers of progress and change. RECODE intends to see a redesign of our public institutions, to change the way business works, and to support the founding and growth of new social enterprises. The goal is to change our culture so as to develop a more just and sustainable society. Again, this is paradigmatic social change.
The SocialVentures Zone (SVZ) is one of the newest incubators at Ryerson University. We call our incubators “Zones”. Ryerson is renowned for its first incubator, the DMZ (formerly the Digital Media Zone) that is considered one of the top incubators in the world. Many other zones have popped up over the years and the SVZ is focused on building the social innovation ecosystem by supporting new student-led “changemaker” start-ups intending to become sustainable and viable. On acceptance into the zone, entrepreneurs have a twelve-month timeframe (with an option for extension) and access to seed funding with initial grants offered at up to $1,500. The zone offers a collaborative 24/7 workspace, mentoring, and connections with peers, local community leaders, social entrepreneurs as well as industry networks. The entrepreneurs attend at least four workshops and this is noted on transcripts. The zones at Ryerson offer entrepreneurs the chance to make an idea become a reality. For more information on the SVZ, see http://www.ryerson.ca/svz/index.html.
Social Innovation Related Case Competitions
So many more social innovation initiatives are happening all over campus all of the time. I have also had and will have the pleasure of being involved in case competitions related to “changemaking” as a coach and judge. The Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson has had tremendous success in case competitions, in general, and on a related note, with the Net Impact case competition. Our MBA teams took all of the top spots last year and this year we had a group of MBAs take second place. The competition is heating up as “changemaking” and paradigmatic change become endemic to Canadian business schools. This winter I will judge a CSR case competition being hosted at Ryerson with Schulich (York University) and Rotman (University of Toronto) teams involved.
Overall, Ryerson University has become a wonderful case study for social innovation and entrepreneurship in education. Certainly, credit must go to Dr. Wendy Cukier, our Vice-President of Research and Innovation who has tirelessly driven forward on these initiatives so that we may realize them and others such as our Diversity Institute at the Ted Rogers School of Management. Not surprisingly, she will be moving on to higher levels as the next President of Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. Congratulations and thanks to her for her contributions to making Ryerson University a leader.
Brooks, A., C. (2009). Social entrepreneurship. A modern approach to social venture creation. (International ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Education Inc.
Bright, D. S., & Godwin, L. N. (2010). Encouraging social innovation in global organizations: Integrating planned and emergent approaches. Journal of Asia-Pacific Business, 11(3), 179-196.
Mulgan, G. (2007). Social innovation: What it is, why it matters and how it can be accelerated (Working paper). London: Basingtontoke Press.