Trek to a social innovation future
In February this year the Cambridge MBA Social Innovation Student Interest Group (SIG) embarked on a unique career trek to five social impact organisations in the capital: Acumen, Pearson Affordable Learning Fund, Big Society Capital, Unilever and Unltd. Twelve students took part in the tour which encompassed a range of challenging case studies including capacity building, corporate sustainability agendas and impact investing both at home and in emerging markets.
What struck the MBAs was the propensity for different business models to all appropriate forms of social impact. At Unilever the Corporate Social Responsibility division has engineered a Sustainable Living Plan to improve healthcare and wellbeing, reduce environmental impact and enhance livelihoods across the value chain. While both Acumen and Big Social Capital work alternatively as social venture funds across a diverse range of ventures in developing global regions. Pearson Affordable Learning Fund was unique in its focus on early stage investment in the education sector, with low cost affordable private schools modelled as a solution to educational access issues. Big Society Capital is distinct from the other case studies in being UK government-led while engaging broadly across sectors. Finally the group visited the social incubator Unltd which deploys a seed capital model to invest in individual entrepreneurs.
Kia Kavoosi (MBA 2013) spoke of how the trek underlined the requisite to equally balance social and commercial aims in a ‘virtuous cycle’, saying that social impact aims should enhance rather than detract from profitability. There is however a need for escalated government collaboration in social impact activity, he suggested. Priya Shah (MBA 2013), a key implementer of the trek, summarised the group’s own interest in collaborating on live social enterprise projects:
The opportunities for MBAs to pursue meaningful careers in social innovation are growing rapidly, and our student group aims to foster links with leading social impact organisations, universities, thought leaders, alumni, and social entrepreneurs to encourage greater engagement in this exciting and emerging sector.
Professor of Innovation & Organisation Paul Tracey, who is Faculty Coach for the MBA Social Innovation Concentration, said:
We have an amazing group of students on this year’s MBA programme who are passionate about social innovation and social change. They are extremely motivated and have an unquenchable thirst for the latest ideas and practices currently driving the social enterprise movement, as their organisation of these two events illustrates. This group of students are helping us to build a solid foundation as we grow our teaching and research profile in social innovation.
Social innovation represents a key strength on the Cambridge MBA programme from the School’s world-leading research initiatives and the dedicated ‘Social Innovation’ concentration pathway, to the highly active Social Innovation Student Interest Group (SIG).