Fall 2017 Features

Social Entrepreneurship

A business built around the idea of making an impact for the Kingdom of God – this is the main goal of OBU’s Social Entrepreneurship degree.

“Social Entrepreneurship is a movement that has gained remarkable momentum over the last few years,” said Dr. John Cragin, professor of social entrepreneurship and international business. “It is fundamentally the idea that business thinking and methods can be harnessed to help address social problems in ways that foundations, non-profits and government cannot.”

Dr. David Houghton, dean of the Paul Dickinson College of Business and professor of business, explains how this idea of social entrepreneurship in a Christian context can go beyond business models and permeate the spiritual realm.

“When you have the Christian overlay,” Houghton said, “the Christian social entrepreneur is also likely to think about how their business is impacting the Kingdom, from an evangelical perspective or from a discipleship perspective.”

Houghton explains that OBU’s kingdom-minded mentality is what sets the degree apart from other schools.

“We want our students, whether they are doing business domestically or internationally, to think of that business as their mission field,” he said. “I don’t think you can get that at very many other places.”

Social entrepreneurship draws a select crowd of enthusiastic business professionals who are not motivated by the bottom line and larger profits but by bigger than life, eternal outcomes.

“Social entrepreneurs are a very special breed and there are not many on any campus,” Cragin said. “They are not looking for ‘jobs,’ they are looking to change the world.  They tend to be bold, willing to fail, dreaming big dreams. Social entrepreneurs are a special breed of entrepreneurs because their big dreams are not about making money, but making an impact for the King.”

Because social entrepreneurship is a business degree, it has many of the same courses as other business degrees offered at OBU.

“Business is fundamentally the same,” Cragin said. “You have to have a good grasp of economics, accounting, marketing, finance, working with people, developing plans and strategies, and information technology. We have a very big business degree core, but what differentiates the different majors are the specialty courses that you take.”

The degree plan has five highly specialized courses designed to answer the questions a social entrepreneur is likely to encounter when starting their business. These courses include introduction to social entrepreneurship, funding the entrepreneurial venture, social entrepreneurship field experience, new venture development and small business marketing.

Introduction to social entrepreneurship is the first class students take to learn more about the field and determine if social entrepreneurship is the right career option. Cragin teaches this course and explains the main idea for the class.

“The students who take introduction to social entrepreneurship usually don’t have any idea what social entrepreneurship is,” Cragin said. “They think they have an idea, but they don’t really know because it’s
so new.”

Even if they enter the class thinking it is something it isn’t, Cragin said they usually enjoy it anyway. It gives them the opportunity to determine if they want to pursue this career or select another.

Once a student has determined that he or she wants to be a social entrepreneur, OBU has more classes to help guide that student toward success.

Most social entrepreneurs will end up owning a small business, so one of the required courses is a class on small-business marketing.

“They’re going to have to find ways of doing marketing cheaper or free, so they are going to have to find innovative ways to use social media for instance or some other guerilla-marketing techniques,” Houghton explained. “They’re going to have to raise capital for their businesses, so we provide a new venture development class that helps them understand how to raise money, whether that’s equity or debt or both. Then they have a class that ties everything together they learned in other classes, helping them develop and implement a business plan.”

The social entrepreneurship field experience class is designed to give the student some real-world experience in the field and interaction with other like-minded business professionals.

“This class is like an internship, but it’s a little different because they don’t necessarily want to work for a company, they want to start their own business. This class is designed to give students some time to explore their own idea while they learn from business people in the community to help them realize their dream,” Houghton said.

Not every student will start his or her own company immediately after graduation, but a degree in social entrepreneurship will start him or her in the right direction.

“We do have people who go through the program that are entrepreneurial in mind, but aren’t ready yet to make that leap into starting their own business,” Houghton said. “For some it’s due to a comfort level that they have and for others it might be due to needing funding at a certain level. So, some of these students will go to work for a corporation or a business for a period of time, but their end-goal, eventually five or 10 years down the line, will be to start their own business. They might want to get some training in that industry before they make that leap.”

First offered in 2013, the social entrepreneurship degree is designed to provide an opportunity to bridge business and missions.

“What I really want is the student who is thinking in an integrated way about their career,” Houghton said. “They’re thinking holistically. They really want to go into a business career and see that as a calling but also can be trained, in the context of that calling, to think about how they can do that as a mission. That’s always my ultimate goal, to advance the Kingdom. I thought this major could be a very purposeful and strategic way of doing that.”

While the program will fundamentally remain the same, there will be a few changes to look forward to in the future. Some of those changes will include a partnership with OBU’s Enactus team and integration with the future engineering program.

“From the very beginning, my intention was to connect business majors who are entrepreneurial in their mind-set with an engineering student, so in their final year, they are working on a joint project,” Houghton said. “The engineer has come up with the product or the process and the entrepreneur is thinking about the business plan for it. Once we launch an engineering program in the next few years, we will be able to implement this kind of partnership between programs.”