From May 6 to May 10, the Lasallian Social Enterprise for Economic Development (LSEED) team held its social enterprise boot camp for the second batch of LSEED fellows composed of DLSU students aspiring to become social entrepreneurs.
A best feature of this incubation and formation boot camp is that students were paired with a DLSU partner community, and together, they brainstormed business ideas that aimed to solve a particular community problem.
They closely collaborated in designing solutions to issues such as livelihood generation and water accessibility. In the end, both the students and their partner community members pitched their ideas to university officials for possible funding and improvement.
As a mentor for one of the student-community groups, I felt both challenged and inspired. It is truly difficult to arrive at a common specific understanding of a problem and a solution that both the social entrepreneur and partner community would have a deep sense of ownership.
Constant dialogue is essential, as it breeds the necessary trust and respect needed for a feasible social entrepreneurial idea to form. But in a pedagogical and community engagement perspective, this setting provides a very rich learning experience for all stakeholders involved. Concepts and theories learned in classes are either validated or challenged, and the students are pushed to focus their energy not anymore to merely finish a requirement nor focus on getting a high grade. This time, the stakes are high—their ideas put the well-being of a community on the line.
While listening to the insights of the partner community members, I recall what Tony Meloto and Thomas Graham call as the “genius of the poor.” What community partners may lack in formal education, they more than make up for in terms of ‘streetsmarts’ and deep understanding of the psyche of their fellow community members.
The students and the community partners learn from each other through continuous iteration and piloting of ideas. What I deeply appreciate about these experiences is that in this bootcamp, there is no “elitista” or “masa”; there is only a single-minded group—a community in the purest sense of the word—that aims to arrive at a creative solution to a real-world problem.
As a business and management educator, I could honestly say that this transcends the walls of a traditional classroom setting, and it places both meaning and social value in education, which is sometimes limited to standardized tests or writing of plans that no one will read nor implement.
I think that other educational institutions should consider social enterprise incubation as means to manifest authentic community engagement. As the field of social entrepreneurship continues to grow in the country, it is vital for educational institutions to play a vital role in fostering an enabling social enterprise ecosystem for students, communities and other stakeholders.
In my ongoing research of understanding why students would intend to engage in social entrepreneurial activities, the most salient driver is one’s perceived social support. Therefore, if we are to continue advocating social entrepreneurship, it is important to design and institutionalize mechanisms of social entrepreneurial support such as incubation and formation programs.
The time is ripe for researchers, government, and grant-giving bodies to consider supporting social enterprise incubation as a means to advance learning and community engagement.
After all, a social enterprise incubator does not only breed business ideas to solve social problems, but equally important, it cultivates real-world collaborative learning towards sustainable development.
Patrick Adriel H. Aure is an Assistant Professor from the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University (DLSU). He advocates social entrepreneurship as head of the Social Enterprise Research Network of the Center for Business Research and Development (CBRD-SERN) and as co-chair of the Lasallian Social Enterprise for Economic Development (LSEED) committee at DLSU. He can be emailed at [email protected]