Social Entrepreneurship

What is Social Entrepreneurship?

Social entrepreneurs create innovative ventures designed to change society for the better, borrowing lessons and principles from the business sector to address pressing social problems.

Understanding one’s target group, building a realistic business plan, and learning from experience are all integral parts of a social entrepreneur’s work.

However, social entrepreneurs see an even bigger ecosystem than the market. By definition, social entrepreneurs are focused on society as a whole. All entrepreneurs measure profits, but social entrepreneurs value most highly social, rather than financial, profit.

Social Entrepreneurship at NMH

We engage students in active learning about entrepreneurship and social profit, preparing them to take up flexible, creative, and compassionate roles in society.

The idea of social innovation runs deep throughout our institution’s history. In many ways, Dwight Moody was an archetypal social entrepreneur who found a way to extend world-class education to those who could not afford it. NMH might now be developing a new generation of Dwight Moodys focused on building a more just and sustainable world by acting with humanity and purpose.

Rhodes Fellowship Course in Social Entrepreneurship

Students in social entrepreneurship course discuss

This yearlong class, started in 2015 thanks to the generosity of William R. Rhodes ’53, is the cornerstone of NMH's social entrepreneurship program. It is offered to eight to 10 selected junior “fellows” who start by sharing their own stories and hearing from and interacting with social entrepreneurs from a variety of fields.

Recent visitors include:

  • Jessica Jackley, founder of pioneering microloan organization Kiva
  • Sam Calagione ’88, founder of Dogfish Head, proponent of “off-centered leadership”
  • Peter Barbey ’76, owner of The Village Voice
  • Alisa Del Tufo, founder of the Threshold Collaborative
  • Kate Hayes ’06, head of direct impact at Echoing Green
  • Tanmay Rao, a recent graduate at Lawrenceville School, now scaling up his tutoring organization
  • Dorothy Stoneman, a Macarthur “genius grant” fellow and founder of Youthbuild
  • Skye Cornell, vice president of programs at Wholesome Wave
  • Harriet Warshaw, executive director of The Conversation Project

In the second unit of the course, students form teams to practice developing and proposing a social enterprise connected to the local community in Greenfield. This practice phase helps students work through the intricacies of learning about community needs and founding an organization.

Later, students create new teams and build their own social enterprises, using experiences and knowledge gained from the rest of the course. A team of volunteers with varied backgrounds and expertise advises students. Proposals must be approved in principle and for funding by a board that considers the organization’s sustainability, financial plan, intended impact, and efficacy. The board also examines the need for the organization, potential competitors, the larger ecosystem in which the new organization will operate, and how students intend to measure their organization’s impact.

Throughout the year, students build critical skills including communication, reflection, and perseverance.