College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Social Entrepreneurs: Catalysts for Change


by Beni Atibalentja ‘09

Just as business entrepreneurs create value to transform industry; social entrepreneurs are catalysts for change within the modern society. They see opportunities where others have overlooked them, they continually innovate new approaches, advance sustainable solutions for the purpose of not only small –scale change, but for extensive long-term change.

This summer for three weekends in June, 27 Social Entrepreneurship Fellows have heeded the call of social responsibility, and have committed a minimum of 60 hours to answer it. In its third year, the Social Entrepreneurship Summer Institute (SESI) will be combining a total of 8 non-profit organizations, 3 from East St. Louis, and the social entrepreneurship Fellows in a collaboration to implement strategies to sustain the organization and its mission statement. The 27 Social Entrepreneurship Fellows are selected through an intense and competitive application and interview process open to the entire campus.

Post selection, students attend a second summer session course, titled “Social Entrepreneurship and the Citizen Leader,” in which they undergo consulting training and hone their knowledge on such subjects as non-profit branding, non-profit fundraising, and marketing.  Included in this summer’s curriculum is a discussion on how non-profit organizations can lobby legislature for forward advancement.

Faculty from the College of Business, other colleges within the Urbana-Champaign campus, Chicago, and other states apply to volunteer their expertise to ensure that students not only receive the best cross-functional education to assist the non-profits, but also to emphasize the importance and relevance of social responsibility and entrepreneurship.

“SESI,” says Assistant Dean Collette Niland, is designed to “invest intellectual capital” already present within the University network, with the hope that “teaching students the importance of social responsibility to their communities...will raise a better crop of business people.”

The Institute has found that its deliberate link between the curriculum and organizations’ needs has been essential for the effective development of both the students and the non-profit organizations. Success has also had another noteworthy effect: the introduction of a social entrepreneurship lecture series beginning this upcoming school year, and hopes for expansion to reach organizations state-wide, nation-wide, and globally.

UIUC College of Business