Training social entrepreneurs, the new challenge of the University

Social entrepreneurship is gaining ground in Europe, according to experts.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
03 April 2024 Wednesday 10:32
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Training social entrepreneurs, the new challenge of the University

Social entrepreneurship is gaining ground in Europe, according to experts. The sector is undergoing a profound transformation and entrepreneurs are beginning to emerge strongly, betting on companies capable of positively impacting society, beyond NGOs or foundations, created to provide solutions to social or environmental problems. These are companies that, in addition to contributing to solving these issues, cause systemic change in society, while being economically viable.

For Nina Magomedova, professor of the degree in Business Administration and Management at UIC Barcelona, ​​“this strategy is finding institutional support both from the European Union and at the state level in Spain.” In this sense, Ella Magomedova points out that “for decades there have been foundations, non-governmental organizations and cooperatives that fight for the creation of a more equitable and inclusive society. These organizations continue to play a key role in the labor and social insertion of people from disadvantaged groups or in environmental conservation. However, sometimes their efforts have a temporary effect and do not bring about a paradigmatic change.”

Although companies that follow this line are beginning to be created, according to Magomedova, “the success stories of social companies are still rare and one of the main reasons is the lack of hybrid professionals who have, on the one hand, sensitivity to the social mission. of the company and, on the other, knowledge and business management tools.” Hence the need for universities to offer training for these professional profiles.

The offer of training, degrees or masters in this area is limited in most higher educational institutions. Along these lines, Magomedova assures that "there is a perception among students that university subjects on social entrepreneurship mainly address theory and lack the applicability of this knowledge in real life."

Students demand greater practical guidance, with real cases and challenges of social enterprises. One of the innovative activities that has demonstrated its potential in terms of practical applicability and development of the necessary skills for future agents of change is the one proposed by professors and researchers María Ballesteros-Sola of the California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI). ) and Nina Magomedova from UIC Barcelona.

In their study, published in the International Journal of Management Education in 2023, the teachers analyze the challenge learning activity in the context of COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning), - international collaborative online learning. The main objective of this activity was to propose solutions to the real challenges of local social companies. For this, two companies from Catalonia and two from California were chosen. In turn, the students worked for seven weeks in mixed groups, with representation of UIC Barcelona students and CSUCI students in each group, to provide answers to the challenges of social companies, taking advantage of continuous mentoring by these companies. . The activity culminated in a series of presentations with the presence of social companies that provided an assessment of the final result.

The analysis of the results of this activity demonstrated, according to Magomedova, that “this pedagogical approach contributes to the development of the entrepreneurial spirit among students and their prospects for job placement in the social enterprise sector, since it allows them to work directly with their potential employers.” . In addition, Magomedova points out that this activity “develops interpersonal and intercultural communication skills in a globalized work environment and the growing trend of remote work.”

Another advantage of this educational proposal is, according to Magomedova, that, unlike traditional study abroad programs, “COIL eliminates financial barriers related to travel and accommodation, thus helping to address the equity gap in regarding the international learning experience by allowing students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds to participate and learn about different cultures.”

The study also highlights that this approach can be beneficial for the development of digital skills of social entrepreneurs. In this sense, the correct use of digital tools can help any organization improve the cost-performance ratio. In the context of social enterprises that find themselves in the continuous need to balance difficult-to-reconcile social and economic viability objectives, this takes on crucial importance.

The researchers emphasize that to maximize the impact of COIL activities based on real challenges “institutional commitment and support is required.” For Magomedova, "without this support the efforts to propose a similar activity fall on individual members of the teaching staff, which translates into a significant investment of time, own resources and a blind search for collaborators." In this sense, UIC Barcelona has a specific support unit in the implementation of COIL in the classroom. An educational proposal that, according to Magomedova, “should be extended to more universities” to train professionals who fit the profile that new social companies are demanding.