Business School Goes Beyond the Corporate World

Rebecca Meyer with her MBA teammates, Tom and Nilay, and their clients from the Collaborative Group. See more photos from this semester's MBA Social Entrepreneurship (ENTR 594) course by clicking here.

Business school is not just preparation for the corporate world anymore. It was in Dr. Renko’s Social Entrepreneurship class where this was made evident. Beginning January, class teams were partnered with local social ventures to begin a semester long project. The assignment was simple:  each social venture pitched a project of which they needed help, student teams were to complete the project.   

The social ventures varied from a for-profit company aiming to bring clean drinking water to people around the world through portable water filtration systems, to a non-profit organization helping to build not only parks but community relationships in Chicago. I found myself on a team partnered with, Collaborative Group, a for-profit business with a mission to create sustainable employment for women artisans in underdeveloped areas of the world. They do this by sourcing artisan crafted apparel items (scarves, shoes, handbags etc.) to be sold with big brand companies in the U.S.

During the project we not only learned how to apply concepts like Theory of Change, Social ROI, but we had the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes look at what it means to run a social enterprise, and the passion that fuels it. These organizations not only measure their success through profit margins and productivity, but also by their social impact. Working in business, myself, it allowed me a chance to get a new perspective I would not have received outside the class.  

Though my last semester of my MBA, it was the first time I analyzed a company’s success through social impact. It was refreshing to break out of the hard-edged corporate metrics. In business, we spend so much time, money, energy working to create great results, it seems fitting to gain even more return by providing a social benefit as well.  

At the end of thirteen weeks, we presented our final recommendations in class to our partnered social ventures. The participating social ventures were very supportive, asking a lot of questions and overall really appreciative of the hard work all the teams put into their organizations.   

What was most unique about this project was that in the end, we had all contributed to something much bigger than ourselves. That’s a lesson most business students don’t get to experience, and I’m happy to have been a part of it. 

More from Dr. Maija Renko on UIC and Social Entrepreneurship: