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Social Impact in Spotlight at Stanford GSB & Chicago Booth

Awards and competition winners in the area of social impact and have been announced at Chicago Booth and Stanford GSB in the past week

The depth of enthusiasm for social enterprise careers at business schools was on display at Chicago Booth last week. Seven teams of students took home a total of US$100,000 in seed funding for their social ventures — startups seeking a significant impact on the planet, not just profit.


“The lines separating sectors are blurring” says Chicago Booth professor

First place in the Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC) — and US$60,000 — went to Provide, a startup setup by Chicago Booth students which provides software for daycare business owners. Joint runners up were Flipside, a media platform promoting different viewpoints, and JuryCheck, a tech platform for law professionals to detect and monitor racial and gender underrepresentation in jury pools. Both banked US$20,000 each. In addition to the seed funding prizes, all seven finalists will share US$148,000 of in-kind services, including office space and professional consulting.

“This year’s teams launched startups addressing complex social and environmental problems with sustainable business models,” says Robert Gertner, faculty director of the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, which received a US$20 million donation from a Booth alumnus last week. “The Social New Venture Challenge illustrates how the lines separating sectors are blurring — with for-profits adopting social missions and nonprofits recognizing that business skills are needed to scale their efforts.”

Stipends for Stanford GSB students committed to social change

The SNVC is reserved for teams which include students of Chicago Booth and other graduate students at the University of Chicago, but similar initiatives are underway at business schools across North America, and have been for some time. The Stanford Graduate School of Business last week awarded generous stipends to student leaders committed to social change.

Emerging social entrepreneurs Jenna Nicholas and Muhammad Mustafa received a Social Innovation Fellowship from Stanford GSB, which awards them a US$110,00 stipend each, plus support to test, implement and iterate their startup ideas. Mustafa’s EasyJob startup helps illiterate adults obtain employment with a mobile app that is based entirely on icons and audio. Nicholas’ venture, Impact Experience, partners with disadvantaged communities to facilitate connections designed to generate trust, enhance strategy, and accelerate transformation.

Two further awards given out (the Frances and Arjay Miller Prize in Social Innovation and the Miller Social Change Leadership Award) recognized a total of 11 students, Nicholas among them, and were created Arjay Miller, a former dean of Stanford GSB. “As I’ve said before, making money is the easy part — it’s making the world a better place that is the hard part,” he says. “I wanted to encourage students to find unique ways to overcome social challenges, and I’m thrilled with the change these programs have inspired over the past few years.”


Business schools such as Stanford increasingly provide funding and support to students who want to launch and scale enterprises which aim to instigate social change and impact. They are responding to greater demand among MBAs to pursue careers with meaning, rather than large salaries alone. The generous cash awards doled out by Stanford GSB and Chicago Booth highlight the diversity of career paths on offer for MBA students who wish to make a tangible impact on the planet. 

Seb Murray
Written by Seb Murray

Seb is a journalist and consulting editor who has developed a successful track record writing about business, education and technology for the international press.

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