The business of making a difference
The business of making a difference
KENNESAW, Ga. (Jun 17, 2016) — A group assembled at Prillaman Hall recently had no shortage of ideas for implementing business strategies to address social and environmental issues. The workshop they were attending at Kennesaw State University showed how to make them happen.
The social entrepreneurship workshop, co-sponsored by the WellStar College of Health and Human Services and the Office of Economic Development and Community Engagement, was the first of its kind to be held at Kennesaw State. The featured speakers were Samapti Guha and Archana Singh, professors at the renowned Tata Institute of Social Sciences in India.
“Social entrepreneurs have a passion to solve or address social problems and social issues,” Guha said. “Accordingly, they innovatively take the entrepreneurial way to address that problem. So for us, social change is the big issue.”
The symposium was designed for the nonprofit, corporate and social work sectors of the Atlanta area. The four-day workshop and the ensuing six-day “enhanced session” drew a total of 35 participants – 30 people from the community and five Kennesaw State graduate students.
“It really opens your eyes to see that, if you want to be a social entrepreneur, there is a proper way to do it,” said Elisa Molina of Atlanta, who is pursuing her Master of Business Administration at Kennesaw State. “This class is really amazing.”
Molina wants to develop a revenue-generating venture to boost the economy in Costa Rica, where she served as a Peace Corps volunteer for nearly three years. Molina said she encountered many people there whose primary source of income is selling handmade pottery to tourists; however, business can stagnate if a steady stream of organized tourism is not coming through those people’s communities.
“Sometimes there are months that pass by without selling a piece of pottery,” Molina said. “If that’s happening, then how are they feeding themselves? How are they sending kids to school? A lot of people and families are being impacted by this issue.”
Another workshop attendee, Ronica Brown, is brainstorming ideas to help in her native Jamaica. After moving to the United States at age 18, she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Kennesaw State and now works as a certified public accountant. Brown wants to develop business ventures in hopes of lowering Jamaica’s unemployment rate.
“When you look at a Third World country, our best and brightest migrate. So who is left to contribute?” she said. “I’m passionate about this because I want to help people back home to find the opportunities that are within their country and be able to have a better quality of life.”
As Molina and Brown look to make a difference abroad, Larry Jackson has a social entrepreneurship idea he hopes to develop in the Atlanta area. Jackson, who earned an industrial engineering degree from Southern Polytechnic State and now is pursuing his Master of Business Administration at KSU, wants to use computer gaming to teach urban youths about technology. Through afterschool programs and weekend workshops, he said, kids can learn coding, graphic design or other skills that potentially could develop into careers.
“The social aspect is really just focusing on a demographic that is sometimes under-served and sometimes not as exposed to those types of things,” Jackson said. “Why not give them some things that will help them be contributors to society and actually see what value they can bring to it? I think it just strengthens the social fabric of our society overall.”
While some of the workshop participants are venturing into social entrepreneurship for the first time, others are already established in it. Sherrie Cade, a KSU Executive MBA graduate, said she has been a social entrepreneur for the past eight years. Her latest endeavor is Power of One, which provides consulting and helps acquire funding for entrepreneurial efforts.
“This (workshop) is like a confirmation for me – because there are not a lot of people talking about social entrepreneurship here (in the Atlanta area),” Cade said. “I’m shocked that there aren’t, because I have a lot of clients who come to me on a regular basis for the consulting and executive coaching I provide.”
Though the workshop is over, the instruction isn’t. Participants can receive six months of follow-up mentoring online, enabling them to submit ideas and plans for their ventures or organizations that professors Guha and Singh will review and provide feedback.
“I definitely am going to continue with the mentorship part of this course in order to be more effective,” Brown said.
Photo caption: Professor Archana Singh speaks to participants during the social entrepreneurship workshop hosted by Kennesaw State University.
— Paul Floeckher
Photo by David Caselli
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.