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How Social Entrepreneurship Changes The World

“The surest way to live forever is through the giving of love, time, and money. To live today, we must earn and save; to live forever we must serve and give.”
Roger W. Babson

The third and final talk in the Wellesley Chamber of Commerce 2009 Babson College/Wellesley Bank Business Series was held this morning. The theme was “Making Sense of a Changing World: Service as a Solution to Today’s Challenges.”

Lisa Thomas, director of Babson’s Bernon Center for Public Service, and Marty Maffeo, an alumnus and volunteer in Babson’s Coaching for Leadership and Teamwork Program (CLTP) who stood in for scheduled speaker Mark Albion, addressed a group of about 20 to tackle the idea of service as one solution for the challenges faced locally and globally and ways that Babson is showing how an entrepreneur – or entrepreneurial attitude – can have an impact.

Marty spoke first emphasizing a Mark Albion mantra “doing good AND doing well” as an attitude for good business. He talked about President Schlesinger’s strategic initiative of making Babson synonymous with entrepreneurship in thought and action. He also talked about People, Profit, and Planet being a foundation for a Babson entrepreneurial education.

He talked about our new charge: to educate a generation of leaders who can create economic and social value . . . everywhere. And to:
• Have our students use their Babson education to transform enterprises and communities around the globe.
• Make business, by its very nature, be socially responsible/impactful.
• Partner with organizations that can help us with our objectives; e.g.   The Ashoka Foundation and Net Impact.  

Marty encouraged business owners in the audience to think about the impact that being socially responsible has locally and globally. He also mentioned that college students need to connect with people like them – business owners, and that they can benefit from these students offer as many move toward social entrepreneurship.

Lisa Thomas then spoke about Babson’s Bernon Center, established in 1998, and its mission:  to help Babson College graduate globally responsible and civically engaged individuals who understand that their role as trained entrepreneurs is to not only give back to the community but to use their competencies to look at social justice issues and seek innovative solutions.

Lisa has been with the Center since its beginning and recalls that in 1998, 2,500 hours of service were documented by the Babson community. In the 2008- 2009 academic year, the Babson community had over 25,000 service hours!  They have grown from one part-time staff member and 6 student leaders to a ¾-time plus one full-time professional and 30 Student Service Leaders.

Every day for almost 14 years, Babson students have helped young Needham and Wellesley students with their homework through the Housing Authority. Another ongoing student mission has been to Mattapan to teach English as a Second Language.  According to Lisa, the students “skip onto the buses” because they love these projects.

Lisa explained her goal is to move the students from hands-on service projects, to embracing the concept of social responsibility, then ‘graduating’ to becoming social entrepreneurs in attitude even if they’re not creating their own businesses.

A new project underway is the Bernon Scholar Program, intended to formally engage students in an embedded service experience. The first 10 will be selected from the applicants this month. One criteria is to complete a “Be the Change” course taught by Undergraduate Dean Dennis Hanno and Professors Danna Greenberg, James Hunt and Kate McKone-Sweet.

Lisa also spoke of an upcoming initiative, Barton Road Research Project, led by John Whitman, professor of entrepreneurship. With his students, they will explore how Babson resources might be applied in a strategic way, not only to serve immediate needs, such as after school educational programs for kids in public housing, but also to help lift motivated families out of public housing. They hope this will become a model program to share with others.

A poignant moment came during a brief Q&A when a Chamber member shared how he learned about giving back during his own college days. He had returned from active military duty and found a job offering a meager salary. He worked hard and earned raises and was at a point that he had a few cents more than he needed to get by. His boss told him that now it was time to start giving back; a position that had never occurred to him.  He says it changed his life!