Tommy Tobin

Tommy is a recent graduate of Stanford University, where he earned the Deans’ Award for Academic Accomplishment and led the Stanford Project on Hunger to provide 100,000 meals for his community.

Socializing Social-E

You can be involved with social entrepreneurship. Even if your campus doesn’t have a course on the topic, there are many paths for students to get experience in social entrepreneurship and charting a career with social impact. We invite you to share your story in the comment section below.

Babson College’s From Day One program or ASU’s Spirit of Service Scholars are but two examples of efforts at institutions around the world aimed at building cohorts of students to create social value. Such programs develop a campus culture which embraces social responsibility, public service, and changemaking. These and other projects at Changemaker Campuses demonstrate to students that the faculty, staff, and student affairs professionals recognize that (1) the university can be an engine of social change and (2) that social entrepreneurship enables students to make a social impact.

Organized student groups also play a role in helping students consider their options for making an impact both pre- and post graduation. Whether they are active just on one campus or are chapters of larger national organizations like NetImpact, student groups bring students with a variety of interests, skill sets, and ideas together. As such, they have immense potential to make change happen. 41 colleges have already taken the Gumball Challenge from Gumball Capital, aiming to create student social entrepreneurs with $27, 27 gumballs, & 7 days. Gumball’s simulation at the recent Ashoka U Exchange was a massive success, raising hundreds of dollars within hours for a non-profit. At my university, the entrepreneurship student group, BASES, not only brought leaders from the business, social entrepreneurship, and technology sectors together to talk about the future of innovation, but also helped contribute $150,000 for student teams of innovators.

Social entrepreneurship is an emerging career path for students as access to sophisticated support structures and funding continues to improve. Whether through fellowships or public service, students are increasingly turning to social entrepreneurship as a post-college career choice. Another reason for choosing to become a social entrepreneur may be the success of their peers and a bevy of successful models. Stanford’s “Do-Gooder Startups,” like SEE College Prep, were recently featured in Bloomberg Businessweek. UC-Berkeley’s Nikhil Arora & Alejandro Velez founded BTTR Ventures after a lecture their senior year, now they’re one of Bloomberg Business Week’s best young entrepreneurs. The TEDxYSE also honored such young social innovators and provided a forum to inspire further action.

Once entirely the realm of business schools, business plan competitions and social innovation challenges are quickly becoming more common. The Dell Social Innovation Competition at the University of Texas at Austin gives away more than $100,000 every year to student innovators. Ashoka U’s Social Entrepreneurship Education Resource Handbook catalogs over 20 such competitions.

Academic courses can be aligned with such competitions, leading to educational experiences with direct applicability. For a course on social entrepreneurship, I wrote a business plan with my student team. We chose to submit the plan to two campus social entrepreneurship challenges and earned distinction in both! In fact, we were the top undergraduates in the BASES Social Entrepreneurship Challenge. Now, I am working to further refine our idea as a semi-finalist for the Echoing Green Fellowship.

As the field of social entrepreneurship continues to grow, career prospects are improving and there are plenty of resources for students earning their degree to gain enriching experiences.