The answer, Wertman acknowledged, is complicated. "It requires the creation of new business models that manage multiple missions. Maximizing revenue is one, but you want to bring things like social, environment and health issues to get an equal seat at the table," said Wertman, who is also a professor of clinical management and organization at USC Marshall.
Marshall's attention to social entrepreneurship seems to be bringing the School into its own sweet spot. Its commitment to social entrepreneurship caught the eye of Arianna Huffington, author of 12 books and the co-founder and editor in-chief of the Huffington Post, who delivered the keynote address at the February 20 event.
To Huffington, who received her master's in economics at Cambridge, the concept of social entrepreneurship is the key to bolstering capitalism. Huffington noted that the notion of combining social consciousness with profit is not altogether new. "Capitalism has always supported a moral foundation," she said during her address. Now though, it is an imperative. "We are not going to be able to get out the crisis of the moment unless we reinvent the way we think of business and the way we do business, which is why what you are doing here at Marshall is so central to this enterprise," Huffington said.
Ellis's prophecy about Marshall's leadership in the social entrepreneurship arena may be coming true sooner rather than later. The diverse programs spearheaded by the Society and Business lab have become a draw for incoming students; last year, nearly 15 percent of the entire incoming MBA class of 2011 applied for the highly competitive fellowships at the Society and Business Lab.
Elena Zager, an applicant for the class of 2012, who spent her career managing private wealth at Morgan Stanley in Chicago and now serves as financial advisor to a prominent nonprofit organization in Los Angeles, says she hopes to combine her financial experience and passion for helping people and get involved in strategic philanthropy. She says she applied to Marshall specifically for the opportunity to be a fellow at the Society and Business Lab.
Young entrepreneurs such as Marshall alumnus Brent Freeman, who launched MARCsMovement.com, an online retailer for shoppers who want to purchase products from "Moral And Responsible Companies," are launching businesses that aim to merge social responsibility with commerce.
The event also engaged seasoned Marshall alumni in positions to offer advice that comes from years of steering companies through rigorous processes and applying discipline to new ideas -- critical to implementing social innovation. At the event's panels, discussion centered on the fact that not all ideas are equal. Furthermore, just because a business idea has a social theme, it doesn't mean it is viable; the business formulas still matter.
Next on the alumni calendar: The USC Marshall School of Business and USC Leventhal School of Accounting 1 - 5 - 10 Year Graduate Reunions will take place March 26-27, 2010. The graduate classes of 2000, 2005, and 2009 are invited to return to USC for a weekend of reconnecting with classmates and participating in lifelong learning sessions with renowned faculty and distinguished business leaders.
About the USC Marshall Alumni Association:
The USC Marshall School of Business has a strong foundation of 73,000 alumni worldwide in more than 90 countries. USC Marshall and Leventhal alumni continue their positive influence on the School through mentoring, guest lecturing, identifying employment opportunities for fellow alumni and students, and lending crucial financial support. Alumni stay connected to each other and the business community through the online database, lifetime email forwarding, networking, and events.