When it comes to the application of sound business principles and practices, institutions of higher learning have long focused their efforts on teaching students to create commercial companies for the purpose of maximizing profits; the classic expression of capitalism.
But times are changing, and there is a new emphasis afoot to not only blend a sense of morality and consciousness into the entrepreneurial landscape, but in many cases to create non-profit entities that will thrive in a profit-driven world and serve the greater good of humanity.
We envision a world in which every business values, generates, and accounts for social impact.
Founded by UC Berkeley MBA students in 1999, the Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) is now the world’s largest student-led competition of its kind. Co-sponsored by the Haas School’s Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Center for Responsible Business, this unique competition has continued to expand in its scope and reach. In 2009 a record 317 teams from 23 countries competed in the GSVC preliminary rounds, including 130 US teams and teams from Singapore to Switzerland and Canada to Cambodia. In two short years participation has doubled.
Everyone who has participated in GSVC over the past decade shares a bond, says Olsen, co-founder of the San Francisco-based Social Venture Technology Group, which measures the ROI of social ventures. “The same ideals that were so inspiring to the first year’s students are equally inspiring to successive generations,” she says. “Every single student who has been substantially involved in the leadership over the years has been a rock star.”
The event has adapted well to the reality of an expanding global economy. Known initially as the National Social Venture Competition, the competition reached outside the United States in 2003 when the London Business School joined, thus prompting the name change. In 2007 Yale’s School of Management joined Haas, London, Columbia Business School, and Indian School of Business to create a more global footprint.
The end goal is for the winning team to create the best business plan for a new social venture. But how is this “social venture” defined? For the Global Social Venture Competition, a social venture is defined as a business that:
- Plans to be financially sustainable or profitable; whether tax-exempt or not, it must be self-sufficient on its earned revenue
- Has a quantifiable social and/or environmental bottom line incorporated into its mission and practices
Every team must include a graduate business student, but this student can be attending any business school in the world or graduated from a graduate business program within the previous two years. In addition, this graduate business student must be an active participant in the venture.
“The social entrepreneurs we meet in the competition are driven by their passion to make change happen. They’re ambitious and disciplined about creating and growing new companies. And, most of all, they provide the professionals who participate with personal inspiration. ”
Cathy Clark, GSVC Faculty Advisor, Columbia Business School
Alice Ray, who co-founded social learning software company Ripple Effects with Sarah Berg, said garnering second place in 2000 gave her company greater institutional credibility. “When we did go out for funding it seemed to reassure some investors,” she said. More important, she said, was that the competition taught her to persevere – a lesson that helps her today as her company navigates the economic downturn.
Symposium On Social Entrepreneurship
The GSVC Symposium on Social Entrepreneurship is held on the day following the Global Finals. For the 2009 symposium over 300 leaders and innovators in social entrepreneurship, business, and academia assemble for a full-day conference on Saturday, April 25th. Panel sessions and interactive workshops provide the means for participants to discuss recent trends and issues with leading and aspiring social entrepreneurs.
The full list of panelists and moderators is available online, but featured speakers will include:
- Penelope Douglass of Pacific Community Ventures
- Priya Haji of World of Good
- Kevin Jones of Good Capital
- Tamsin Smith, former president of (RED)
The conference will also include key representatives from:
- Skoll Foundation
- Rubicon National Social Innovations
- Omidyar Network
Competition Success Stories
Tarsian & Blinkley
Haas School of Business, Univ. of CA, Berkeley – 2003
The mission of the company is to create beautiful, novel, highly fashionable products that celebrate feminine beauty and Afghan artisanship while developing the Afghan economy and improving the lives of Afghan people. Tarsian & Blinkley received a $150,000 loan from the OPIC in January 2004. Sarah Takesh’s company has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, LA Times, Denver Times, Fortune Small Business and Fast Company. Her merchandise is now available in 6 boutique stores across the United States and can be purchased on-line.
Bronx Charter School for the Arts
Columbia Business School – 2002
A non-profit public charter elementary school in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx founded on the principle that arts education is a catalyst for academic and social success. They opened their doors in September 2003 and are completing their first academic year. The Bronx Charter School program received $200,000 in funding from The Goldman Sachs Foundation in August 2003.
University of Washington – 2001
Prisma provides microloans to entrepreneurs in the developing world. Prisma’s business plan quantified a positive social impact in terms of job creation, income generation, and community development. Prisma received $700,000 of funding in 2002.
University of Washington – 2000
Ripple Effects helps schools, youth-serving organizations, and businesses change social behavior in ways that improve performance. The company has integrated decades of research into an interactive software-driven learning system that makes social learning both effective and engaging, scalable and individualized. They have been recognized with over 22 awards for their products.
Creating A Bright Future
This competition is having a dynamic effect on the community of social venture entrepreneurs and inspiring those who create businesses – for profit or not – to consider how their company will benefit the world at large. From a Global Patriot perspective, this is a movement that should be supported by governments and the free enterprise system!
The Symposium On Social Entrepreneurship – Capitalism can be socially responsible!