Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

The Social Business Challenge: Experiencing Mission Driven Entrepreneurship

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

The Social Business Challenge: Experiencing Mission Driven Entrepreneurship

Article excerpt



The Social Business Challenge (SBC) is an innovative experiential program that engages students in the entrepreneurial process from start to finish including a philanthropic purpose. It is a method for undergraduate students to learn material introduced in the classroom by thinking and doing the work to create and operate a business for a limited time. The purpose of the Social Business Challenge is to increase the value of the University's entrepreneurship education for students and the community by innovating in pedagogy. It is designed to assist in the development of the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities for students to excel.

While many courses rely heavily upon the traditional "chalk and talk" approach to teaching and learning, entrepreneurship and small business management is a subject that frequently involves some, if not many, forms of experience-based learning. Among the common pedagogies are entrepreneur interviews, guest speakers, business plan competitions, and elevator pitch competitions. Neck and Greene (2011, p. 59) observe that "Though the business planning process is an attractive and powerful learning process, a disproportionate amount of time is spent honing secondary research skills than actually taking smart action in the real world." The SBC is another way of encouraging students to "take smart action in the real world" while in a course.

Increasingly, educators are recognizing the importance of collaborative learning (Drummond, 2012; Tapscott and Williams, 2010) and assisting students in learning through doing (Ásvoll and Jacobsen, 2012; Neck and Greene, 2011). Those involved in entrepreneurship education have suggested a number of strategies, primarily experiential in nature (Alberti, Sciascia and Poli, 2004; Bruton, 2010; Cope, 2003; Cope and Watts, 2000; Kuratko, 2004; Sherman, Sebora, and Dingman, 2008). Some have addressed the use of business or venture models (Hamermesh, Marshall and Pirmohamed, 2002; Morris, Schindehutte and Allen, 2005) while other focus on design thinking methodologies (Blank et al., 2012; Bruton, 2010 and 2012). Recent conference sessions and papers have addressed establishing businesses in the university setting (Martin and Malach, 2012; Plumly, Wayne, Marshall et al., 2008; Yang, 2012).

Pittaway and Cope (2007, p. 214) suggest that the following key features are "required when simulating entrepreneurial learning:

Financial and emotional exposure (Cope, 2003); action-oriented and proactive behavior (Rae and Carswell, 2000; Young and Sexton, 1997); discontinuous events, crises, failure (Cope and Watts, 2000; Cope, 2003; Deakins and Freel, 1998); socially situated learning, learning as co-participation (Hamilton, 2004; Taylor and Thorpe, 2004); and habitual learning (Costello, 1996). "

The Social Business Challenge includes all of the features identified by Pittaway and Cope as they identify opportunities, determine target markets, create products or services and bring them to market.

Also, in recent years, some faculty has created and implemented programs to foster the development of highly innovative and feasible ventures, including Stanford University's Lean Launch Pad (Blank et al., 2012) and Mount Royal University's Venture Design Studio (Bruton, 2010).

All of the above-mentioned experiences provide insights and potential inspiration for students, but the SBC experience goes several steps farther with the actual planning and operation of a business, closing it, and reflecting upon the experience. It is a pedagogy that is well-suited to an introductory undergraduate course in entrepreneurship or small business management (no prior business courses required).

The original concept was derived from the now-defunct Gumball Challenge and has been modified, essentially beyond recognition, based upon additional faculty learning and student feedback. The Gumball Challenge was a one-week challenge that originated as a class project at Stanford University. …

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