Social entrepreneurship now comes with a manual, thanks to Wharton professors.
On June 18, 2013, Ian Macmillan, Dhirubhai Ambani professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at Wharton, and James Thompson, co-founder and director of the Wharton Social Enterprise Program, published the first section of their book “Social Entrepreneur’s Playbook: Pressure Test Your Start-up Idea.” Their book, which is based on their thirteen years of field research with social enterprises, provides information to help social entrepreneurs launch their own ventures.
The first installment of the book is available free online, which readers can download through ibooks, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The second part of the book will become available in the fall.
Thompson said that he and his co-author were giving the book away for free in exchange for the readers’ participation in a survey on the book, which will close on July 15. The authors will use the themes and questions as “input” to “tweak” the final version of the extended book. “It is kind of a novel approach,” he said.
The original research began with a discussion between Macmillan and Thompson about developing economics. At the time of the discussion, “social entrepreneurship” was not a popular topic. So they decided to conduct field research, learning about social enterprises on the ground with a case study basis. They worked with social entrepreneurs on “the application of the business model with the knowledge of the operating model, funding and capacity,” Thompson explained.
“The key aspect of this book and social entrepreneurship is to apply the business discipline in the social enterprise,” he added. “This kind of business mindset will produce self-efficiency for social enterprises and direct the groups which are dependent [to become independent].”
This book has two focuses. The first is to “do more with less” by teaching students how to maximize their social impact with “the same amount of funding or fewer funding.” The second is the development of strategies to combat uncertain situations in social entrepreneurship. “Social entrepreneurs operate in a highly uncertain environment — we designed the book in certain way, there is a way to play under high uncertainty,” Dr. Thompson said.
Students have responded positively to the book thus far.
Rising Wharton and Engineering junior Xiaolei Cong, who is on the executive board of Penn Social Entrepreneurship Mentorship, said he and most of his club members are planning to read it and contribute to the fall 2013 edition. “I think launching this first part of the book free for students is a great decision, since it shows that the authors are really receptive to the readers,” Cong said.
He also said that the book has been helpful for PennSEM as well.
“The content of this book is also very new, as very few of the existing publications on social entrepreneurship discuss exactly how to build a social enterprise,” he said. “This has been a challenge for our club as well, but I think this book will provide great help to those students at Penn who are interested in launching their social enterprise.”
Rising Wharton junior Alex Dinsmoor, who is considering concentrating in Social Impact and Responsibility, also praised the book. “I think there are two skills you need for social entrepreneurship. One is to have the passion, the purpose like what type of change and feel deeply enough to create something. Second is to have the entrepreneurship skills to implement it. This book can guide you to fill in the weak area.”
He also enjoyed the book’s practical, problem-solving approach. “Most of things we learned in class are perfect situations. But uncertain situations actually provide a better of what it will be actually like when starting a business.”
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