Over the last 20 years, influential economists and business leaders have made the case that businesses and market-savvy non-governmental organizations should, as part of their missions, try to alleviate poverty, lower the threat and impacts of climate change, and address human rights, thereby effecting social change on a large scale.
In higher education, this perspective can be found in innovative economics and business courses that give students hands-on opportunities though service learning, community engagement, social entrepreneurship, and/or design thinking.
Starting this semester at Ashesi, Professor Jon Isham, Fulbright scholar from Middlebury College, Vermont, will teach Social Enterprise, a course he designed to help guide students through the ropes of creating social enterprises.
“I see this course triangulating between the Foundations of Design and Entrepreneurship (FDE) course and other entrepreneurship courses and opportunities that students take at Ashesi,” Professor Isham explained. “This new course is an opportunity to think about enterprises as that engine for social change, and since Ashesi is already at the forefront of this phenomenon, it makes sense to teach it now.”
To assist in running the course, local agribusiness-based tech firm, Farmerline, has partnered with the class to help introduce students to the concept of social entrepreneurship. The course will expose students to the world of social entrepreneurship; nurturing an entrepreneurial mindset and the ability to solve complex problems.
As part of the class, students will have the chance to design a new social enterprise for addressing two urgent challenges in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa: improving the quality of learning among primary school students; and reducing corruption in day-to-day business and civic life.
On their part, Farmerline will guide the students through the processes of building a social enterprise, from ideation through to implementation. “It is exciting to be a part of the class, and we would definitely like to see a lot more companies like Farmerline created,” said Alloysius Attah, CEO and founder of Farmerline. “It will be great to see the next generation of business leaders who are conscious about creating impact not just for themselves, but for other people.”
The new elective will build on global trends of effecting social change on a large scale, while addressing how social enterprises help to unleash social change, what the determinants of success and failure of social enterprises, models of leading social enterprises in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa and mindsets and skills do people needed to successfully run a social enterprise.
[A cross-section of the Farmerline team and some members of the Social Enterprise course]
“Designing this social enterprise will be a challenge,” said Professor Isham. “If we get this right, it will also be enormously rewarding. It will help students to learn how Africa’s business, non-profit, and policy leaders can support effective social enterprises.