The first annual Social Entrepreneurship Summer Institute (SESI), was offered by the College of Business in June 2007. SESI provided local community organizations with free business training over three consecutive weekends, and thereafter placed College of Business and other undergraduate students in those organizations as unpaid summer interns. SESI’s two-part format (classes and internships) was intended to both develop the organizations’ business acumen, and to help them better accomplish their stated missions.
The brainchild of College of Business Assistant Dean Collette Niland, SESI was launched with a grant from the Chancellor’s Civic Commitment Task Force, written by Niland and Associate Dean of Faculty Larry DeBrock. Once the Chancellor’s office committed funds, the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership matched those funds to make SESI a reality.
The class segment of the Institute covered topics like non-traditional advertising, project assessment, fundraising, managing endowment, donor relations and communications. Participants also went through the process of developing a mission-based business plan.
“We wanted to teach community organizations how to be more effective with the resources they have,” Niland explained, “but also how to identify and develop alternative sources of funding to keep them sustainable.”
To that end, the Institute introduced participants to the field of social entrepreneurship, encouraging them to investigate whether and where developing a for-profit venture to fund their non-profit mission might be a good fit.
Student interns committed 60 hours of volunteer time to each participating organization, helping them incorporate new business development ideas and personnel training into their existing operations. The experience was a transformative one for all concerned.
“The feedback was overwhelming positive,” Niland said. “The students saw how they could use their business skills to assist the not-for-profit community in beneficial ways. I think they will continue to be engaged; some of the students have continued to work with the same organizations.”
The Institute’s faculty came from across campus, including Professors Janet Bercovitz and Michael Pratt (Business Administration), David Sinow (Finance), Kevin Jackson (Accounting), Cindy Geerdes (Law), Ann Abbott (Spanish), Stephen Anderson (Social Work), and recent graduate Sarah Menninger. Consultants who specialize in non-profit management also joined the Institute’s faculty, including Laura Huth and Amber Marks of Do Good Consulting and Tim Miles of The Wizard of Ads.
The community organizations that participated in the first SESI were Habitat for Humanity, the YWCA, Planned Parenthood, Salt and Light, A Woman’s Place, 10,000 Villages, the Center for Women in Transition, C-U Citizens for Peace and Justice, the East Central Illinois Refugee Center, and the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Clubs.
When asked about her plans for SESI going forward, Niland commented, “We’re absolutely going to do this on a regular basis. We’re looking into turning this into a course for credit. And we plan to scale SESI on a global level, both by training other schools and institutions to create social entrepreneurship institutes of their own, and by sending our students to work with NGOs [non-governmental organizations] abroad. We’ve already been contacted by an interested professor in South Africa who is an Ashoka Fellow.”
Persons interested in participating in next summer’s SESI should contact Assistant Dean Collette Niland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 333-2740.