The Social Entrepreneurship by Design course, jointly taught by professors from Babson and Olin College of Engineering, has received the Innovation in Entrepreneurship Pedagogy award.

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The Social Entrepreneurship by Design course at Babson College, jointly taught by professors from Babson and Olin College of Engineering, has received the Innovation in Entrepreneurship Pedagogy Award from Academy of Management Entrepreneurship Division and McGraw Hill.

Heidi Neck, professor of entrepreneurial studies at Babson, Erik Noyes, assistant professor of entrepreneurship at Babson, and Stephen Schiffman, associate professor of entrepreneurship at Olin College of Engineering shared the award for the innovative course they developed.

The Academy of Management Entrepreneurship Division and McGraw Hill present the annual award to individuals who develop and implement an innovation in entrepreneurship pedagogy for either graduate or undergraduate education. The purpose of the award is to encourage the development and dissemination of innovations in pedagogy.

Social Entrepreneurship by Design

Social Entrepreneurship by Design (SED) is a full-semester undergraduate entrepreneurship advanced elective offered at Babson College. SED integrates stakeholder collaborative design and entrepreneurship for the purpose of developing new products or services that contribute to the solution of complex social problems. The overarching social problem is predetermined by the professors but then students in teams of four must identify a segment of the problem in which to create solutions and potential business opportunities. For example, the overarching social problem may be environmental sustainability and student teams work on problems related to waste, land, food, or energy.

Though new products and services are the foundation of new venture creation, entrepreneurship education, in general, does not focus in any depth on the process of idea generation. SED is fundamentally a creativity and idea generation course; students do not present a final idea until the end of the course. Additionally, students create visual artifacts crystallizing acquired knowledge over five phases of the course and each artifact contributes to the design process in different ways. Given the focus on idea generation and artifact creation as tools of idea generation, SED has the potential to alter existing mindsets and encourage a greater degree of entrepreneurial thinking. Importantly, the studio format of the course, where students have a dedicated design space to inhabit and populate with visual artifacts, is a radical alternative to traditional entrepreneurship pedagogy. The studio format serves three purposes:

  1. students have a designated space they can access 24/7;
  2. the space is used to exhibit student generated artifacts as tools that are used and connected throughout the design process, and
  3. professors play an alternative role as guide and questioner as opposed to instructor or even facilitator.

The course integrates concepts of social entrepreneurship, stakeholder theory, wicked problem theory, and principles from anthropology. The objectives for students are to:

  • Co-create innovative product and service solutions to social problems working with key stakeholders.
  • Participate extensively in the creative front end of the idea generation process.
  • Operate under conditions of great ambiguity and uncertainty.
  • Understand the concept of value and how this relates to various stakeholder groups.
  • Think like entrepreneurs.

By Barbara Blair,, 781-239-4621 | 09/08/2011 06:00