Teaching Social Entrepreneurship: Arts Management with a Community Engaged Perspective

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This paper examines a semester-long community engagement pilot class for undergraduate students, Social Entrepreneurship: Managing in the Arts. It was designed to reflect three converging trends in academic programs: employing student-centered pedagogies, incorporating service learning components into class assignments, and recognizing arts management as a legitimate area for the academic application of social entrepreneurs hip strategies.

This analysis contributes to the debate over the extent to which nonprofit arts enterprises should mimic the principles of business management practices, or alternatively reflect a curriculum more specifically related to the creative mind. A version of this article was presented at the International Conference on Small Business in June 2010.

INTRODUCTION

This paper examines a semester-long community engagement pilot class for undergraduate students, Social Entrepreneurship: Managing the Arts. It was designed to reflect three converging trends in academic programs: recognizing arts management as a legitimate area for the study of social entrepreneurship; incorporating interdisciplinary service learning components into class assignments (Sterling, 2007) and (Evrard & Colbert, 2000; Chong, 2002) and employing experiential, student-centered pedagogies (Reynolds, 1999). Consistent with Leo Higdon's (2005) call for students and faculty to take an active role in life outside its campus, it was part of a university initiative to learn from and contribute to urban nonprofit arts enterprises.

The essay is organized as follows: it addresses why nonprofit arts management is an important component of social entrepreneurship; addresses why it is a appropriate area within which to do service learning; lists the goals of the course; shows the local arts scene as appropriate for community engagement; concisely explains the principles underlying the course's student-centered pedagogy; describes how we applied these principles to engage undergraduate students with the local arts community; and highlights what we learned from the data we gathered in interviews the authors and students conducted with local arts experts and from papers student teams wrote on their short term internships with arts organizations.

NONPROFIT ARTS MANAGEMENT AS SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Nonprofit arts organizations fit the Social Enterprise Alliance's definition of social entrepreneurship as "an organization that advances its social mission through entrepreneurial, earned income strategies" (2011) and Pomerantz' (2006) that its core "is the application of principles often associated with the business world to furthering a social or community mission," even as they have received relatively little attention in social entrepreneurship literature. (See Brkic, 2009; Palmer, 1998; Dimaggio, 1987). Hager (2001) points out that scholars need to study subsets of nonprofit organizations as different types of nonprofit entities face distinctly different business issues. The arts are an appropriate area for study given that "more than half of live theaters in the United States are nonprofits, as are more than 90% of the nation's orchestras, opera companies, and chamber music groups, and just under 90% of the nation's museums, art galleries, and zoological gardens" (Hager, 2001, p. 379; Salamon, 1999). In practice, while many nonprofit arts organizations are entrepreneurial models of the efficient use of limited resources, from theatre companies imaginatively re-using costumes and properties to small museums earning supplemental income by leasing space for weddings and other events, they are also highly vulnerable to failure. Bowen, Nygren, Turner, and Duffy (1994) report failure rates of ballet at 25.1%, opera at 22.7%, dance at 22.3%, theater at 20.3%, and museums at 9.8%. As Jerr Boschee (2003), director of the National Center for Social Entrepreneurs points out, in a time of shrinking resources, entrepreneurial endeavors are critical to the survival of many nonprofits, including those in the arts where a significant number of organizations are experiencing financial difficulties (See Rosenbaum, 201 1). …