Over the past few months, we’ve covered a number of topics related to social entrepreneurship: profiles of entrepreneurs and enterprises, success stories and business models, and most recently controversies in the field. One area we’ve not covered is efforts to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs, through the education system – leading towards social entrepreneurship being seen as a viable career path.

Social entrepreneurship in universities is a recent phenomenon, coming with the recognition of social entrepreneurship as a potential career path after university – in particular after an MBA.

Looking across the world, there are a number of ways in which social entrepreneurship has been included in university: from specific courses on the topic (for example, Standford, Yale, Duke, Oxford and Columbia), to integration of social entrepreneurship case studies into many “mainstream” courses (for example, Harvard). Many universities also have student societies (such as NetImpact) engaged in the area, fellowships (MIT’s Legatum Fellowship, Oxford’s Skoll Scholarships), as well as regular talks and lecture series. On the practical side, many universities now co-ordinate internship programmes for their students, to develop real-world experience in the topics under study (e.g. MIT G-Lab).

For those fortunate enough to be able to complete education in the USA and England, the above universities offer plenty of opportunities. But what’s the level of engagement in Pakistan’s leading universities?

A glance at the top business and liberal arts universities across the country reveals little integration of social entrepreneurship into the curriculum, with the exception of LUMS, which ran a social entrepreneurship course aimed at MBA students this past semester. Student initiatives like YLES and IBA Invent have produced socially-minded entrepreneurial ideas and LUMUN-SRP facilitated volunteer work in NGOs.  Yet, it seems that in a country where the challenges are staring us collectively in the face, there’s a lack of engagement with social entrepreneurship – a means to develop a generation of business leaders employing market-based solutions to our social problems.

Is this a reflection of the demand for such skills by employers? Or related to the focus on business degrees, instead of social sciences? In the USA, where the impact investing and social entrepreneurship sector is booming, universities may be integrating social entrepreneurship into their curricula to meet an industry demand.

The question is, how do we change this?

The TC-P team has a few ideas:

  • Organisations (whether social venture funds or social enterprises) can provide fellowship and internship opportunities to university students
  • Social venture business plan competitions to encourage innovation by university students
  • Establishing local funding/support networks for budding social entrepreneurs
Do you have other ideas? Share them in the comments!