The 12th Annual Social Entrepreneurship Conference

By Denise Parris, Assistant Professor
Rollins College

In the fall of 2015 Dr. Cecilia McInnis-Bowers and I were honored to attend the 12th Annual Social Entrepreneurship conference hosted by NYU-Stern to present our paper entitled “Business Not As Usual: Developing the Next Generation of Socially Conscious Practitioners.” Where we explore the formation of the two new majors at Rollins Social Entrepreneurship and responsible Management that embrace four major themes: the three pillars of sustainability—people, planet, profit; collaborative innovation; entrepreneurial thinking and action; and self-discover/self-authorship. These new majors were developed by Rollins Business Faculty, recognizing incoming students are seeking high impact careers that change the world. At the Ashoka University Conference in 2013 we interviewed students from top liberal arts schools across the nation, where we learned these aspiring global leaders were seeking business skillsets and mindsets that would enable them to make our communities and world a better place.

At the core of our curriculum is the goal of creating positive social change by building a sustainable community of servant leaders. In contrast to seeking profit first, our intention is to enable our students to become servant leaders who can make the conscious choice to serve our planet and our society. As educators we believe “the only way to change the society is to produce people, enough people, who will change it” (Greenleaf, 1977, p.60). Servant leadership aligns with both responsible management and social entrepreneurship paradigms.

Servant leadership was introduced into an organizational context through Greenleaf’s three foundational essays— The Servant as Leader, The Institution as Servant, and Trustees as Servants. Although the practice of servant leadership is not a new concept, with roots dating back to the ancient teachings of the world’s great religions and numerous great leaders.

In designing the foundational course which introduces students to our two socially conscious majors we purposely help students develop and practice the ten characteristics of Servant Leadership:

  • Listening: Automatically responding to any problem by receptively listening to what is said, which allows them to identify the will of the group and help clarify that will.
  • Empathy: Striving to accept and understand others, never rejecting them, but sometimes refusing to recognize their performance as good enough.
  • Healing: Recognizing as human beings they have the opportunity to make themselves and others “whole”.
  • Awareness: Strengthened by general awareness above all self-awareness, which enables them to view situations holistically.
  • Persuasion: Relying primarily on convincement rather than coercion.
  • Conceptualization: Seeking to arouse and nurture their and others’ abilities to “dream great dreams”.
  • Foresight: Intuitively understanding the lessons from the past, the present realities, and the likely outcome of a decision for the future.
  • Stewardship: Committing first and foremost to serving other’s needs.
  • Commitment to the growth of people: Nurtures the personal, professional, and spiritual growth of each individual.
  • Building Community: Identifies means of building communities among individuals working within their institutions, which can give the healing love essential for health.

(Parris and Welty-Peachey, 2012, 2013; Spears 1998)

The course is designed to build a community, create a culture of storytelling and safe spaces, and foster formal and informal discussions. These structural and social processes impact the individual by helping students develop broader identities, nurture their ability to see they can make a difference, and strengthen their awareness of the healing power of service. Our foremost goal is to enable and encourage students to be responsible leaders and global citizens, and as a result to have a positive impact on society, the planet, and the world.

The most compelling results of our new curriculum is the reception of students to the content and processes taught. Some students express a sense of surprise and relief that business can be an agent to change the world for good. The discovery that many people in business are doing good is an eye opening and liberating “ah-ha”.

Interestingly, students who come into the course knowing that business can be a force for good have self-selected to be social entrepreneurs. These students have identified a personal moment of obligation to help others and realize the mindsets and skills sets of business will be needed.

Millennials have come of age and have repurposed business. They seek to transform what may have been just a job in years past into a transformative, high-impact career. We embraced the opportunity to re-invent what and how we taught students, seeking business education, about what constitutes the requisites for success. We wanted to bring social consciousness to business.

The launch of the two majors required the development of 26 courses, infused with the themes of socially conscious business, to deliver values-based, liberal business education, while meeting the highest standards for business education set by AACSB. Students drawn to our majors are committed to using business as a force for creating a better world for themselves and those across the globe, both inside existing organizations and as entrepreneurs solving business and social problems. Our program is the first social entrepreneurship major in a business department accredited by AACSB, and is ranked 11th among entrepreneurial colleges in the United States.

After hearing about our Social Entrepreneurship major we were invited to apply for the McGraw-Hill Pedagogy Award given in Entrepreneurship. We are thrilled to be nominated, and are currently preparing our packet to compete for the award.

The 12th Annual Social Entrepreneurship conference was a wonderful opportunity to both show off the great work that is going on here at Rollins, as well as, see and be inspired by the work going on around the world. Personally, as someone who has devoted her academic career to the study of how business can be used as force for good. It is incredibly satisfying to work, teach, and be inspired by the students and faculty who are dedicated helping others first.


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