The social sector has long had powerful entrepreneurial leaders, but the opportunity to promote cross-sector learning is relatively new. Recent trends in the social sector have led to a blurring of the distinctions between business, nonprofit and government organizations. In particular, frustration with traditional governmental and charitable approaches to social problems has prompted social sector leaders to tap into the strengths of the business and entrepreneurial world in their search for more sustainable and systemic solutions. Thus, homeless shelters are starting businesses to train and employ their residents; environmental organizations are partnering with corporations to find economically sound ways to protect natural habitats; and arts groups are exploring new ventures that promise stabilizing revenue and enhance community development. Many philanthropists are increasing their focus on outcomes and strategies for sustainability. Numerous nonprofits are adopting the language and tools of business and some are actually converting to for-profit status. At the same time, for-profit firms are competing directly with nonprofits by moving into social sector arenas, ranging from education to economic development to environmental conservation. This rash of sector-blurring activity has created an opportunity for leading business schools to have significant social impact by constructively exploring the adaptation of business concepts for the social sector.
CASE was founded to capitalize on this opportunity while building upon a deep respect for the talent, passion, and dedication of the countless individuals who have devoted their lives to working for the common good. This work is difficult and involves unparalleled challenges. We do not presume to offer easy answers; nor do we think that the social sector should be recreated in the image of business. However, we do believe that we can all benefit by joining in a systematic search for better ways to develop, sustain, and scale innovative and effective responses to social needs.
The First Five Years
In our first five years, CASE has focused on providing thought leadership for the growing field of social entrepreneurship, building a robust MBA Program for students and alumni interested in applying their business skills for social impact; and establishing a strong institutional presence and base of support at Duke University. In brief, through our knowledge development and dissemination efforts, we have produced over 20 publications, presented more than 50 times at universities and conferences, and hosted several convenings of business school colleagues, thought leaders, or practitioners. Our MBA Program has served over 300 students in the classroom, provided over $330,000 in financial aid to MBAs working in the social sector, and engaged our students in projects and volunteer service with over 50 social-purpose organizations. We have also built strong relationships across Duke University and increased CASE’s visibility, and that of the field and of Duke and the Fuqua School of Business, through extensive media coverage. See CASE Impact: 2002-2008 for a more detailed overview of our impact.
All of these efforts have helped us to establish CASE as a recognized thought leader in the field of social entrepreneurship as we seek to provide individuals and organizations with the knowledge and skills they need to pursue social impact entrepreneurially.
Looking to the Future
Building upon our experience and reputation, CASE is poised to be
a major player in ongoing efforts to build the field of social entrepreneurship.
To help us attract more resources to the field and target them strategically,
we have established an outstanding Advisory
Board of leaders in business, philanthropy, and social entrepreneurship.
Additionally, in partnership with the Skoll
Foundation, CASE is currently engaged in a study to identify the
educational needs and key players in the field of social entrepreneurship
and develop a business plan for establishing CASE as the leading disseminator
of practical social entrepreneurship knowledge and training.
As we move forward with our field-building work, we will continue to strengthen our MBA Program by selectively broadening our academic offerings, increasing the sustainability of financial aid programs, refining extracurricular activities, targeting career support services, and increasing marketing to prospective students and alumni interested in social entrepreneurship. In enhancing our MBA Program offerings, we will also strive to link them more closely to our knowledge development and dissemination activities and to continue to build bridges to the rest of Duke University.
Finally, in all of our knowledge creation efforts, CASE will maintain our focus on bridging the gap between business and the social sector, and between theory and practice, so that knowledge will be translated effectively for use by front-line social entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, and philanthropists. We also remain committed to building credibility for this field in academia. Specifically, we will focus most of our research and writing efforts around topics related to the principles and process of social entrepreneurship, scaling social impact, and economic strategies and structures for social impact.
Ultimately, CASE strives to help create an entrepreneurial, effective
social sector that is led by individuals and organizations that embody
the following core values:
• Focus on Impact
• Primacy of Mission
• Private Initiative
• Blurring of Sector Boundaries
• Opportunity Orientation
Within that sector, CASE seeks to be the leading center for social entrepreneurship education, applied research, and field-building.