Social Enterprise Resource Center Educates Next Generation of Socially Conscious Professionals

University Social Enterprise Resource Center Educates Next Generation of Socially Conscious Professionals

Johanna Gunawan, marketing intern, Northeastern University 2016

The Next Mile Project interns come from a variety of universities in Boston. I’m from Northeastern University, where my education in the field of social enterprise led me to come to this awesome space at 2 Atlantic Avenue.

This week, I had the privilege of speaking with Esther Chou, a representative of Northeastern University’s Social Enterprise Institute – a resource center for students interested in the field – providing intensive classroom learning, hands-on international training, and monthly lectures on innovation within social enterprise. She provided a wealth of information on the SEI’s local and international activities, as well as the ways they can match nonprofits with unpaid interns by means of a devoted and talented student pool.

Her detailed explanation begins with a basic description of the institute’s primary functions; it mainly houses several programs primarily intended for NU’s undergraduate population. One program in South Africa has NU students in teams with local students, providing real consulting work for non-governmental organizations in the area. Another program in the Dominican Republic focuses on the research elements within social enterprise, culminating in a legitimate report that students submit to a recognized institution. Yet another in Bali, Indonesia also has students working in foreigner/local teams – this one having the students conduct field research on a specific problem in North Bali, then creating and tailoring an NGO to help amend the issue. These students propose their created nonprofits or social businesses to the community in a final presentation.

As seen on the SEI’s website, their focus on academic training and purposeful learning evidently moves to cultivate a new generation of innovative thinkers committed to social good. Northeastern University is one of two institutions with a specific dedication to social enterprise; other universities such as Harvard, Stanford, and Duke (among others) only offer such courses at the graduate level.

For NU students, the SEI (functioning out of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business) offers an interdisciplinary minor that does not simply ask students to complete a set course list. One requirement of the minor, weighted at 40% of the course list, asks students to embark on an 8-credit international field study program. These are offered in various locations during the summer.

What does this mean for nonprofits seeking help?

The SEI’s network of approximately 3,000 current undergraduates and many other individuals or organizations outside of Northeastern provide a large pool of eager staffers that specifically seek out socially responsible jobs. Nonprofits and social businesses often struggle finding short-term unpaid workers, but Northeastern’s access to this student network allows for easy listserv outreach. The SEI can help nonprofits find interns to match their needs, varying from 3-month long field research or basic consulting.

The SEI also offers a monthly lecture housed on-campus, featuring speakers from Root Capital, Panera Cares, Room to Read, and a variety of other successful organizations. These are intended to ‘inform the general public of the different innovative enterprise solutions in the local community,’ a platform that the Next Mile Project also upholds. As such, nonprofits in the area (or just visiting!) are welcome to attend the lectures or even request to speak for one – thus reaching an intelligent, socially conscious student-based audience. This helps to cultivate the next generation of social enterprise professionals, whether they choose to conduct field study, start their own organizations, or help as consultants, among myriad other career paths.

Northeastern University’s Social Enterprise Institute forwards the progressive thinking from social entrepreneurship in a way only one other undergraduate institution has; it creates a community for interested students to learn more about the field and refine their skills to eventually become a part of it. Likewise, the Next Mile Project focuses on cultivating a community of nonprofits at varying developmental stages to help each one succeed. Building professional profiles and utilizing their skills for the better, both organizations move to advance the current state of social enterprise.

Esther described the SEA as a “local resource for education;” the Next Mile Project expands on this topic with hands-on consulting, services, and access to its professional network. Nonprofits stand to learn and grow with Boston’s finest services at their fingertips.

//Photo accredited to the SEI website.