What if your instructors gave you $60,000 of their own money to award to local social enterprises? Would you learn more knowing there was a real stake at hand?
An unusual—and generous—value proposition, but one the USC Marshall School of Business and its Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab (BSEL) decided to take a chance on.
“The minute I heard about the concept I knew it would be an incredible opportunity for a deep hands-on learning experience,” said Adlai Wertman, David C. Bohnett Professor of Social Entrepreneurship and the founding director of the BSEL. “And of course, with the focus on social enterprise, it was another example of Marshall being willing and able to facilitate something that’s a little bit different, all for the sake of its students.”
Laura Fox, an attorney and former entertainment industry executive, had been working with a similar class, focused on philanthropy, at UCLA. But when she and her husband, attorney and serial entrepreneur Ben Van de Bunt, created their family foundation, they decided they wanted their first project to focus on engaging students in an entrepreneurial approach to social enterprise. They pitched the idea for just such a class to USC Marshall dean James G. Ellis.
“In the board room, if you can allow healthy tensions to exist, you will do your best work.”--Ben van de Bunt
“We wanted to create a class which would give students the opportunity to learn about all aspects of social enterprise while deciding how to invest funds for maximum social impact,” she said. “And we knew that USC Marshall had a very entrepreneurial approach to teaching.”
Ellis was quickly onboard, and introduced the idea to Wertman, who, together with his team at BSEL, worked to create a class that was focused on social enterprises with sustainable business models, in line with its mission.