Creating Social Entrepreneurs

This Complex Problems course will introduce students to the complex problem: How we can create and support social entrepreneurs? Social entrepreneurs are individuals who create businesses to address social problems or needs that are unmet by governments and current markets. These social entrepreneurs generally work with, but not against, the market forces and are typically motivated by social benefit, but may also attain clear economic benefits as well in order to become sustainable and survive a turbulent marketplace. Social entrepreneurs recognize some opportunity to create social value which then leads to the development of an enterprise concept. Social entrepreneurs then gather resources and seek to launch and grow their ventures. This course will explore this process by giving students the opportunity to start their own social enterprise and to interview a social entrepreneur; and incorporate multiple points of view, for example on the value of microfinance, the best means to support social entrepreneurs in terms of government and other financing and resourcing, the pros and cons of government regulation and financing of social ventures, how to measure social enterprise value, and the strengths and weaknesses of business planning relative to other models such as lean start-up/business canvas. The class emphasizes discussion, active learning, and many opportunities to meet with their instructor inside and outside of the course, as well as well guest lecturers and associated groups in the greater DC area. There are also optional living-learning activities including a tour of Mount Vernon with a focus on George Washington, our nation’s first entrepreneur, a visit to the US Small Business Administration (SBA) and/or to a congressional hearing on entrepreneurship policy, a weekend seminar at Washington College in coastal Maryland, a visit to Halcyon Incubator, Impact Hub, or another social enterprise incubator in DC, and possibly an academic conference that I am co-leading at the National Academy of Sciences in DC. The goal is to analyze and synthesize a diversity of perspectives on how best to create and support social entrepreneurs. We will also utilize on campus resources such as the AU Bender Library and Kogod’s Center for Business Communication and FS/IT lab.