University of Southern California

Society and Business Lab Reflects on First Year
Changing the World, One Business at a Time
October 15, 2009 • by Jeremy Deutchman

One year after taking a step in shaping the global business landscape, the Society and Business Lab - a USC Marshall effort to encourage the use of business models to address social challenges around the world - has established a foothold in the social enterprise arena.

Funded with a $1 million commitment from the Salesforce.com Foundation and led by founding director Adlai Wertman, the Society and Business Lab set itself an ambitious goal in 2008: leveraging education, programming and research to create the next generation of enlightened business leaders.

"As global challenges continue to grow in scope and complexity, new business models must be applied to create sustainable solutions,"  said Wertman, who is also professor of clinical management and organization at USC Marshall.

"These models can exist as new entrepreneurial enterprises or within existing corporations looking to deepen their corporate social responsibility efforts."

One year later, the Society and Business Lab has established itself at the forefront of the social enterprise arena. Its diverse initiatives and program offerings continue to attract attention from students, donors, scholars and practitioners dedicated to bringing business knowledge and resources to address issues around poverty, education, health and the environment.

"The Society and Business Lab is fulfilling our mission of graduating students who understand their expanded role in the global community," said USC Marshall Dean James Ellis. "By teaching and designing socially responsible business principles and new business models that address social and environmental challenges, the Lab is further establishing Marshall's leadership in business education."

This fall, the lab welcomed its inaugural class of Society and Business fellows, a designation awarded to a small group of USC Marshall MBA students interested in pursuing careers in the social sector, the environment and health.

Fellows receive individual mentoring from the Society and Business Lab faculty and staff; targeted guidance and counseling to assist them in obtaining summer internships; professional development tailored to nontraditional business careers; and opportunities to meet with industry leaders.

The 11 students accepted into this year’s class also will benefit from a program that focuses both on honing their skills and building a vital community of like-minded peers, said Margaux Helvey MBA ’08, the Society and Business Lab’s associate director.

"The resources available to most business students aren’t always relevant to people who want to use their business skills but apply them to social and environmental problems,"  Helvey said. "Not only are we here to help them, but we also provide an identified cohort from day one, which enables them to become sources of support and encouragement for each other."

This past summer marked the lab’s first Nonprofit Summer Internship Subsidy Program, in partnership with the Career Resources Center, which helps USC Marshall MBA candidates gain hands-on experience by providing a stipend to support summer employment in the nonprofit sector.

This year, students occupied a variety of positions with a broad range of organizations, including the Fulfillment Fund, Chrysalis, Pacific Charter School Development, Green Dot, Families in Schools and New Ventures Mexico.

Another component of the Society and Business Lab’s strategy to redefine social enterprise is VentureBuild, an online learning program that allows social entrepreneurs to test the feasibility of their ideas. With seed funding from the Orfalea Foundations, VentureBuild has a target launch date set for 2010.

The lab's emphasis on making a difference around the world makes it the ideal home for Global Business Brigades, an organization that offers undergraduates a chance to participate in international service learning.

This January, lab staff members will accompany students on a one-week trip to Panama, where they will work with a local micro-enterprise to improve the success and sustainability of the business.

Closer to home, this fall the lab will host a Lunch and Learn series open to USC Marshall students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the greater USC community. The 2009-10 series will take place monthly and feature influential leaders in the social enterprise arena.


About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.