by Rico Neumann
Recently, I had the privilege of participating in the online seminar “Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Social Change” offered by the UPEACE Centre for Executive Education. Being driven by a spirit of innovation and eager to apply the creative and analytical skills I had acquired in academia, NGOs and private sector companies, I joined this course primarily because of a strong desire to learn what is necessary to act as a change agent for society to improve people’s life. The seminar not only turned out to be an inspiring and intriguing opportunity to learn about the groundbreaking idea of social enterprise and the work of leading social entrepreneurs but it also served as an effective forum to propose and evaluate innovative solutions to society’s most pressing problems.
Present-day social entrepreneurs like Bill Drayton (Ashoka), Hilde and Klaus Schwab (Schwab Foundation) or Muhammad Yunus (Grameen Bank) have proven that social entrepreneurship is an increasingly important and viable form of doing business while primarily serving a social cause rather than mere profit. Social businesses may represent effective solutions to social problems as well as practical alternatives to existing business models because it combines and maximizes the benefits of non-profit and for-profit organizations. The seminar was not only an eye-opening experience thematically, but as an online seminar, it also provided room for interactive learning and creativity, and enabled a fruitful exchange of ideas and experiences in an increasingly important digital learning environment, largely independent of space and time.
We spent six weeks in total learning as much from our instructors as we did from each other in our virtual classroom. Participants came from all around the world, enriching the course with a different set of experiences and ideas of how to realize their social mission. A participant from Canada wanted to promote stays at luxurious spa resorts for the affluent people in Manila, Philippines, and use the profit to support the poor in the area. Another course member from Kenya wanted to reduce the overall consumption of plastic water bottles in the African country. My idea for a social enterprise project focused on environmental protection and thus improving life quality for the people in Costa Rica. The core idea of my social enterprise project “Costa Rica Resource Saver” comprises collection and recycling processes as well as awareness campaigns to increase environmental consciousness and change people’s attitudes and behaviors.
I can highly recommend this course to anyone who has innovative ideas and the determination to pursue personal accomplishment while improving the greater good and transforming our world for the better. Social entrepreneurship is an innovative, growing business concept that goes far beyond traditional CSR practices and one that can be superior to conventional NGO work and public sector services in many regards. This seminar guides you through that effectively – truly a course that is useful to professionals in all areas and a tool which I consider fundamental for developing integral and successful business concepts for the 21st century.