Nov 292012

Written By Ryan Steinbach

In my last post I discussed whether social finance should be included in the classroom. I asked this question to Professor Sue White, undergraduate finance professor at University of Maryland Smith School of Business. She explained that there is already one social finance course offered at the graduate level. But why just one? Student demand. If and when demand increases, so too will the social finance course offerings.

I would argue that there is more to it than that. The way a school markets and positions its courses affects the interests of its students. Perhaps if the university took a more proactive step in developing social impact courses, it would attract more student interest, especially at the graduate level. In fact, a growing number of universities across the country are doing just that by expanding offerings in social impact. For the Universities that haven’t, perhaps the pressures of budget cuts and a tough job market are limiting their ability to take the first step off the beaten path. In this case, I think students will be the ones to drive forward the adoption of social finance in college curriculums.

Building a new college program may seem overwhelming, but a lot is already being done. Students all over the country are taking the initiative to pursue their passion for social finance on campus. Here are just a few examples:

Responsible Endowment Initiatives: while students generally have little net worth to their name, many have realized their unique position to leverage a vast sum of capital – college endowments. Through collaborative committees representing students, faculty, and community members, college endowments are being screened for unethical investments. In some cases, portions of the endowment have been allocated solely to socially responsible or community efforts.

An inspiring example of this is Georgetown University’s SIPS fund. Over the last 2 years the Georgetown University Student’s Association (GUSA) has worked to repurpose Georgetown’s student activities endowment into the Social Innovation and Public Service (SIPS) Fund. GUSA envisioned using the money to support innovative student ideas that would do good in the community and around the world by providing them with grants and/or loans. After a pilot project over the last school year, $1.25 million from the endowment was allocated to the SIPS fund and formal operations began July 25th 2012. For those of you interested in learning more about responsible endowment initiatives and how to start your own, check out the Responsible Endowments Coalition.

Microfinance and SRI Clubs: students at schools all over the country are also taking a more direct approach and starting clubs around microfinance and socially responsible investing. These pioneers see a need and aren’t willing to wait for a full time job to do something about it. Cornell’s Microfinance club is one such example. They raise money through donations and events to provide small loans through partner organizations. They also strive to educate the Cornell community by holding events on campus.

Another example is the socially responsible investment club (SRIC) at University of Pittsburgh. The SRIC was created in 2007 to teach students about investing and prove the SRI model. Students wrote an investment policy and standards, and then selected 30 companies from the S&P 500 for their portfolio. After years of outperforming S&P 500 by 0.5 points to 1.5 points each quarter, they aren’t just be proving the viability of investing in an SRI portfolio anymore; they’re actually doing it. The university has allocated $100,000 for the club to actually invest in their portfolio this fall.  Want to learn more about microfinance and SRI clubs across the country and how to start your own? Check out MFI connect.

You can also engage right here at Smith by participating in the Stanford University weekly Simulcast Series, brought to you by the Smith MBA Net Impact chapter and the Emerging Markets Club. Next week’s simulcast is the last of the series for the semester, but don’t worry – this is an annual engagement and will begin again next fall, thanks to the ongoing support of the Center for Social Value Creation.

What I hope you take away from these examples is that college students are having a tangible, positive impact through social finance, and their respective universities are noticing. Through a combination of proof-of-concept and proof-of-demand, students are leading their universities to develop and sponsor more social finance events and initiatives. This is the first step to bringing social finance into our classrooms, but we need students at more universities to get involved. Does a responsible endowment committee screen your schools endowment portfolio? Is there a microfinance or SRI student club? If not, I hope the examples above inspire you to take matters into your own hands.


Ryan is in his last year of undergrad business school at the University of Maryland-College Park, majoring in Marketing and Management. He is also the online manager of UnSectored and a social media intern at the Newberry Group. Formally, Ryan worked as a New Media intern for Calvert Foundation. When not immersed in social media, Ryan explores and writes about social innovation and his millennial generation. If he were to ever pursue a career (wait, what’s that?), it’d be in writing, brand management, and/or digital marketing. Twitter handle: @R_Steinbach

Nov 182012

Written By Sonaly Patel (Smith Alum ’12)

I had a recent realization – many emerging social enterprises are coming out with similar products and services designed to create the same impact as their preceding counterparts.  Many of these new “innovations” are competing only to add marginal benefit.  This insight makes me stop and question whether creating social enterprise after social enterprise with similar value propositions is the best way to create social impact.  Perhaps what we need is not an influx of social enterprises engaged in similar work, but new social enterprises with an alternative focus that provides a boost to those that already have stable footing.

The idea already exists in the for-profit business world.  Elastic Inc., a company featured in the Co-Exist article “Changing How We Sell Things, To Make Companies More Successful,” is one of many companies that has found market opportunities through this principle.  The company provides a holistic option for other companies to outsource a portion of their sales function when their growth plateaus.  Essentially, Elastic Inc. thrives off of filling in the gaps in existing companies.

A similar orientation is needed in the social enterprise space where a portion of new social enterprises should focus less on competing along similar offerings and refocus on boosting the success of existing social enterprises.  Riders for Health is one of the few social enterprises that has adopted this perspective.  The company provides logistics and transportation solutions to organizations focused on improving healthcare in Africa.  Instead of simply creating incremental change by entering as another healthcare organization, Riders for Health has a multiplying effect that creates widespread impact by the simple addition of its service.  Riders for Health’s story is just one example of the potential social impact this refocused orientation can create.

Social enterprises solving unaddressed social problems are indispensible, but social enterprises like Riders for Health are an essential support in helping them create widespread social impact and are largely missing in this space.  Think about it and maybe you will discover that your next social enterprise opportunity lies along this new proliferating perspective.


Sonaly Patel is a recent graduate of the R.H. Smith School of Business. Through her involvement with the Center for Social Value Creation, she worked as a strategy consultant for a livelihoods initiative for cacao producing communities in Ecuador’s rainforests and a communications consultant for Liberty’s Promise, a local nonprofit serving immigrant youth.  At Maryland, she was a founding member of Students Ending Slavery, a leader in the AshokaU campus initiative, and a proud resident of Language House Spanish Cluster.  During her undergraduate years, she also interned at the Grassroots Business Fund in DC and studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain. Upon graduation, Sonaly moved to India to live and work in Mumbai through the IDEX Fellowship in Social Enterprise.  She will be in India until May 2013.

Are you ready to Change The World? (Part 1)

 Career, International, Social Venture Consulting  Comments Off on Are you ready to Change The World? (Part 1)
Nov 052012

By: Amadou Cisse, EMBA

Are you ready to change the world?
We are.

As if I did not have enough to do in a very challenging yet rewarding Executive MBA Program at Smith, I volunteered for an opportunity of lifetime.  The Center for Social Value Creation presented me a chance few students get while in school: making a difference in the life of many.

Entering its seventh year, the Social Venture Consulting program pairs business students with nonprofit organizations.  The students, including yours truly, work over several weeks to provide advice in areas such as finance, marketing, operations, and strategic planning.  The projects feature opportunities to assist with issues ranging from green business marketing in Bethesda, MD to agriculture in Ecuador.  Since I have a great interest for the latter, I submitted my application and was selected on the team with Adrian and Joanna, two Part-Time MBA students.

Image care of the Institute for Sustainable Agriculture

We will assist The Institute for Self-Reliant Agriculture (SRA), an international nonprofit organization that teaches families small-scale agricultural techniques to provide sufficient and balanced nutrition to their families.  The organization is expanding, and with its sole emphasis on major gifts from large donors, SRA needs assistance in fundraising and marketing for the next five years.

As part of our discovery process Joanna and I traveled to Ibarra (in northern Ecuador) from October 25th to 29th to fine tune the messaging of the story of SRA, with the goal of making it more appealing to potential donors. We’ll be working on crafting a story of healthier children and families, university and local government support, and the difference SRA makes in the lives of others. What kind of impactful account will we witness? Stay tuned for our progress…


Amadou Cisse, originally from Mali, is an EMBA candidate currently working as a contractor in the federal government providing program management services.  He has an environmental engineering background and has dedicated his career to programs focused on strategic planning and maintaining community sustainability.  Amadou’s long-term goal is to become one of the world leaders in sustainability and development by implementing sound natural resources management and capacity building to address urban and rural poverty.