AS A MORE socially conscious generation enrolls in universities around
the world, courses focusing on social impact are proliferating at both
the undergraduate and master’s level. But at the London School of
Economics (LSE), we have noticed a distinct lack of offerings designed
to give business executives the practical skills they need to execute sustainability
strategies within their organizations. Since our planet faces
imminent social and environmental challenges, we reasoned, why not
offer education to executives who are already in the driver’s seat?
In 2018, we launched our executive masters in social business and
entrepreneurship (EMSBE) for business leaders who want to give
back to the world. This program perfectly embodies the simple motto
that can be found on our website: “For the betterment of society.”
The EMSBE is a joint effort between the department of management
and LSE’s Marshall Institute, which helps philanthropic organizations
and individuals effectively donate time and resources to the
public good. As we designed the program, it became apparent that it
is nearly impossible to separate social and environmental issues in
an educational sense, so the course integrates both.
Course content explores economic and political contexts, social
impact and its evaluation, the foundations of social business, resource
mobilization, accounting for social return, sustainable practice,
altruistic leadership, and entrepreneurship.
Participants are taught not only
what it means to create social impact,
but how to maintain it in a practical
sense through innovative revenue
streams and technology-based solutions.
Because executive education demands
flexibility in scheduling, we designed the
program to be compatible with a full-time
career. Teaching is conducted over 12
months in intensive one- to two-week
classroom modules on the LSE campus
in London. This means executives are
required to be out of their offices for only
six weeks to attend classes. The 2019–
2020 course calendar includes two weeks
of classroom teaching in September and
one week each in November, February,
June, and July. We also use an online
platform to distribute assignments,
reading materials, and other information;
students can use the platform to collaborate
outside of the classroom.
In addition, participants work in
groups to complete altruistic projects,
which are due in August. The projects
give students the opportunity to create
an entrepreneurial business proposal
for social impact. We hold workshops,
teaching sessions, and tutorials to help
the students develop their ideas before
they make presentations to invited experts
at the end of the program. In recent
projects, students explored impact-led
advertising, access for people with disabilities,
financial services in Indonesia,
and ethical waste management.
Students in LSE’s executive masters in social business and entrepreneurship come from all over the
world and work in occupations that cover the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
Course content for the EMSBE is
delivered through multiple channels.
In addition to traditional lectures and
seminars, we incorporate workshops
that allow students to role-play negotiations,
case studies that require students
to adopt contrary perspectives, and debates
that are organized by the students.
In addition, when tackling sensitive
issues such as disability access, we bring
in guest speakers who can describe
their personal experiences. By having
a diverse set of lecturers share their
stories with our students, we are able to
shape the learning experience around design thinking, in which innovators
develop empathy for the people they
will be serving.
Over the past two years, we’ve kept
class sizes small—below 40 participants—
so that executives know they
are expected to actively engage in discussion.
Students in last year’s cohort
had an average age of 33, came from
13 countries, and worked in occupations
that covered the public, private,
and not-for-profit sectors. In the
past, we have had participants from
social investment organizations such
as Founders Pledge, purpose-driven
firms such as B Lab UK, and large corporations
such as Novartis, Unilever,
and Uber. Some participants are
entrepreneurs, others are aspiring
entrepreneurs, and others are executives
from large companies.
No matter what background
the participants have, the program
provides a springboard to a variety of
social business outcomes. Students
gain the skills and knowledge to
launch their own ventures, lead their
companies’ corporate social responsibility
functions, or become leaders
at charities, NGOs, and think tanks.
EMSBE’s positive reception tells
us that courses like this are needed
in the world. It signals that business
schools need to be serious about
teaching social innovation—and that
executives are finding such knowledge
to be increasingly essential.
Aunnie Patton Power is an architect
of the executive masters in social business
and entrepreneurship at the London
School of Economics Department
of Management in the U.K., where she
is a visiting fellow at the Marshall Institute.
She is also an associate fellow
at the University of Oxford, entrepreneur
in residence at Oxford’s Skoll
Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, an
adjunct faculty member at the University
of Cape Town in South Africa, and
founder of impact financing consultancy
This article originally appeared in BizEd's November/December 2019 issue. Please send questions, comments, or letters to the editor to [email protected].
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