By Laura Tyson
Greetings to all as we begin a new academic year at the Berkeley-Haas Institute for Business and Social Impact.
There are many exciting developments to share with the IBSI community.
*New initiatives in social entrepreneurship
*A seven-week speaker series this fall that features innovators and thought leaders at the cutting edge of business and social impact
It’s a very busy time. Let me start by welcoming two highly accomplished new leaders.
Ben is a social entrepreneur in his own right, a popular lecturer at the Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership, and a regular commentator for Huffington Post, SFGate, LinkedIN, and other outlets.
Ben is the co-founder and former chief executive of EARN, a thriving nonprofit organization that offers matching contributions, guidance and innovative technology to help low-wage workers build savings for the future. Since its launch in 2002, EARN has helped thousands of people save millions of dollars for education, first homes and even start-up micro-businesses. EARN’s innovation and success has attracted much national media attention, including from Forbes, the Los Angeles Times, and National Public Radio.
Having grown up poor himself, Ben brings passion and urgency to developing opportunities for those not born into affluence. As he warned at the Clinton Global Initiative America’s 2012 conference, too many Americans “remain on a treadmill of sorts, working harder and harder but not going anywhere economically.”
Earlier in his career, Ben was director of organizational strategy for Breeze.com, an international micropayments company. Before that, he was the Midwest Practice Leader for Ernst & Young’s Public-Private Development Group in Chicago. Since 2011, Ben has won rave reviews for his classes on nonprofit leadership. He succeeds Nora Silver, CNPL’s founding executive director, who stepped down after 11 years to focus fulltime on teaching and research.
As Nora herself remarked, “Given his clear passion for working with students, his deep experience with social enterprise, and his love of teaching, Ben is exactly what we sought.”
Robert Strand, Executive Director of the Center for Responsible Business
Robert, who comes to us from the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, has deep experience as both a business executive and an academic in the areas of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainable business. He succeeds Jo Mackness, who had led the center since 2008 and was promoted this year to chief operating officer of Berkeley-Haas.
Born and raised in Wisconsin, Robert earned an MBA at the University of Minnesota and worked for more than a decade at IBM and Boston Scientific. Upon becoming a Fulbright Scholar to Norway, Robert became immersed in the study of corporate social responsibility across Scandinavia and went on to earn a Ph.D. at Copenhagen Business School.
For the past five years, Robert was Assistant Professor of Leadership and Sustainability at Copenhagen’s Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility. He was also director of the Nordic Network for Sustainability.
Robert’s work focuses on the strategic aspects of CSR and corporate ethics – topics at the heart of our own center’s mission – and on comparisons between U.S. and Scandinavian approaches. He is a frequent contributor to both peer-reviewed academic journals and major newspapers such as the Financial Times.
Robert is naturally in sync with Berkeley-Haas’s defining principles – especially thinking beyond yourself and questioning the status quo. He is passionate about redefining business leadership to encompass a broad engagement with stakeholders, and he is convinced that Haas is ideally positioned to lead the way.
“Haas has the opportunity to take a global leadership position to radically redefine the dominant narrative of business,’’ he said in an interview with Christina Meinberg of the Center for Responsible Business.
I couldn’t agree more.
New Initiative: Social Lean LaunchPad
This year we are building on this tradition with the introduction of a new course—the Social Lean LaunchPad—that applies nationally recognized lean launch principles and techniques in entrepreneurship to mission-driven social enterprises. The coursem developed by Jorge Calderon, will train entrepreneurs who want to tackle social and environmental problems with innovative, scalable, market-based solutions.
Like the original Lean Launch framework, the Social Lean approach avoids the focus on traditional, detailed business plans. Aspiring entrepreneurs prepare one-page business models – a Lean Canvas – and then systematically test and revise their models through feedback from potential customers, beneficiaries, outside experts, and other stakeholders.
The Social Lean framework adds three new knowledge elements: social venture design; the social entrepreneurial mindset; and social venture management.
Taught by Jorge Calderon and William Rosenzweig, the course will guide interdisciplinary teams of students from concept prioritization through social venture design and launch preparation.
The goal is for students to develop scalable solutions to complex social or environmental problems, to acquire a strong grasp of best practices, and to appreciate the complexity and the rewards of launching social ventures.
The Global Social Venture Competition
Now entering its 16th year, the Global Social Venture Competition is a world-wide student-led competition to discover and reward path-bending new social ventures. Coordinated by Berkeley-Haas, which hosts the final round of the competition each spring, the GSVC provides mentoring, exposure and $50,000 in prize money.
In 2014, the competition attracted nearly 600 entries from 50 nations. The winner was Sampurn(e)arth of India, which develops profitable and environmentally sustainable strategies for recycling solid waste.
This year, the GSVC Haas team is beginning a two-year effort to refine and revise the competition process. In line with the Lean Launch approach, GSVC at Haas is moving away from business plans to shorter “pitch decks” that are similar to what real-life entrepreneurs present to potential investors. As part of that change, the GSVC leaders at Haas want to help other teams refine and revise their plans over the course of the year.
This is a complex transition, in part because the structured Lean Launch process requires more mentoring and work at the regional and local levels. The Haas GSVC team works with 17 universities around the world to identify the finalists who travel to Berkeley each spring.
As has been the case since it began in 1999, GSVC remains a student-led event. The Lester Center, IBSI and a dedicated Advisory Board help the students attract financial sponsors, coordinate with regional partners, line up mentors and judges, and organize the final two-day competition.
Incorporating the Social Lean tools and methodologies in the GSVC, we can help social innovators develop even sharper and bolder ideas in the years ahead. Look out!
The Social Impact Speaker Series
Working with a student team in charge of the Social Sector Speakers’ Series, IBSI will host seven panels this fall that will highlight the many alternative pathways to careers with social impact. The series is an opportunity for students to learn about the possibilities as well to network with others in the Haas community who share their interests.
I will launch the series this Thursday, Aug. 28, with an introduction to the faculty, staff and programs in social impact at the Haas School.
In the subsequent weeks, panels will feature practitioners of corporate social responsibility programs at companies such as Google and Levi Strauss; a broad variety of social impact investors; and entrepreneurs who have started social ventures in sustainable foods and wellness.
Click HERE for the schedule.
All of these initiatives, along with others still to be announced, will further secure Berkeley-Haas’s position as national leader at the intersection of business and social impact. Stay tuned.