Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 6am

New World MBA

social entrepreneurship

We’re operating today in a new arena, in which the way we think about business, and the way we view markets and opportunities, is rapidly changing. In light of quickly advancing technology, an ever-growing population, severe climate change and the rise of new economies, the playing field has taken on an entirely new identity. Populations that were never before connected with the rest of the world have gained access, giving a voice to the underserved populace, creating a boom in advancements at the grassroots level and an expanding consumer base.

We’re incorporating microfinance into our thinking, taking account of our quickly depleting natural resources, forced to make headway to quell viral outbreaks and still working to fix a highly unstable economy. MBAs entering the business world today face a unique set of challenges that traditional ways of thinking are ill-equipped to tackle.

Social entrepreneurship and ‘intrapreneurship’

At Saïd Business School, we encounter daily opportunities to engage with the idea of entrepreneurship, of social impact and new age thinking, on multiple levels. The concept of social entrepreneurship is central to our Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. The idea here is not to churn out future employees that will blend into the major finance and consulting firms, but to create a class of enlightened thinkers who will approach the world of business in a different way, who will challenge the staid processes, who will become entre and ‘intrapreneurs’, leading responsibly and taking the full spectrum of external forces into account.

The idea of intrapreneurship was first introduced to us by Pamela Hartigan, director of Saïd Business School’s Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, during our ‘MBA Launch’. She quoted David Grayson, who discussed intrapreneurship as the idea of pushing innovation from within a company. We don’t have to start our own venture to inspire innovation, to disrupt or to create major organizational change. With pressures from competition around responsible business, green practices and the concept of creating impact, there is room (and budget) for big corporations to become innovators, or intrapreneurs, from within.

Being inclined towards social entrepreneurship myself, though not yet an entrepreneur, I dove right into all things social impact at Saïd Business School from day one. Our Launchpad sits at the edge of the business school, reaching out to the wider Oxford community with regular events that look to expose us to concepts around starting a business and developments in the social space. Within the Launchpad sit our entrepreneurship center and the Skoll Centre, both of which house some of the greatest minds in impact and social thinking in the world.

From Saïd Business School to the world

This year, I’ll be taking classes in social finance, in measuring impact and rethinking business, in doing business in Africa, and delivering infrastructure cheaper and faster. I’ll engage in discussions with leading researchers in the big data and clean water fields, and I’ll create business ideas that seek to solve some of the planet’s most pressing issues.

I’ve joined the Oxford Microfinance Initiative, through which I’ll be consulting with a small microfinance institution in Cambodia. I’ll be hearing from honored global thinkers and Nobel laureates at the Skoll World Forum. As the structure of the global economy continues to change and technological advancements give rise to an ever-connected population, so too must our approach to fostering the world’s future leaders.

Two weeks ago, I led a workshop on the Business Model Canvas at the Saïd Business School Launchpad. Having previously trained entrepreneurs at an incubator in Ghana, I applied my experience to help members work through some initial thinking on what could be the world’s next major innovations. We saw members of the MBA class, graduates from a variety of other fields of study and a visiting student who was attending the Emerge Conference the following weekend. Breaking into teams, this group of essential strangers began to apply their thinking, their experience, their backgrounds and their passions to work out the skeleton of some future business plans. Both inspired and humbled, I left with an appreciation for the work that’s yet to be done, and confidence in the base of impactful thinking that I know I’ll acquire throughout the rest of my time here.