The U of Social Entrepreneurship

Where to Begin offers a deep dive into models of post-secondary social innovation and/or social entrepreneurship hubs across North America. Commissioned by the Mount Royal University (MRU), Scaled Purpose conducted a wide scan of programs and their offerings across campuses in Canada and the United States, and then dove deeper into interviews with eight campuses to get at the heart of why certain programs have worked, and what we can learn from failures.

Key recommendations include:

  • Important First Steps: Post-secondary institutions need to (1) take a look at both their internal and external assets to determine how to develop their own social innovation and entrepreneurship programming, and (2) clearly identify the problem they are uniquely interested in, and capable of, solving.
  • Look to Students: It’s important to listen to the students to determine the best programming options. As well, students are natural ‘silo busters’ and post-secondary institutions should use the students’ examples to inform and inspire institutional efforts in cross-campus collaboration.
  • Social Entrepreneur vs Changemaker: Some labels resonate with students and some don’t. Post-secondary institutions need to make sure their lingo matches their students’ aspirations.
  • Align Purpose with Larger Goals: Many programs recognize the challenge of creating meaningful and measurable goals around messy terms like “social innovation” and instead have defined goals around larger systemic goals like the Canadian Index of Wellbeing or the Millennium Development Goals.
  • Identify a Niche: Find the “Be the Best in the World at X” for your post-secondary institution.
  • Reconsider the Role of Universities: Universities need to reconsider their role within a community, and how they can best leverage their assets for community-wide and larger systemic change.

The full report can be accessed here.


[box] In 2015 MRU was one of many universities across Canada that participated in the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation’s RECODE initiative to “disrupt business as usual; to found and grow new social enterprises; to create partnerships across institutional and sectoral boundaries — in short, to ‘RECODE’ our culture’s operating systems in order to achieve a more just, sustainable, and beautiful world.” With the recent awarding of RECODE funding from the J.W. McConnell Foundation, which funded 18 Canadian universities and colleges, MRU solicited the services of Scaled Purpose to identify foundational stories, key success factors, revenue models, philosophies and approaches, and opportunities for replication at MRU.

Miles DePaul and Sean Campbell are the co-directors of Scaled Purpose Inc., an agency focused on scaling the social and environmental impact of social purpose organizations. They have deep experience in social entrepreneurship and innovation, as founders themselves (Sustainability CoLab, Brothers DePaul Media), and managers within two social enterprise incubators (University of Waterloo’s Greenhouse, School for Social Entrepreneurs Ontario).[/box]

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