The Social Venture Consulting Program: Students Making a Difference
In the field of social venture entrepreneurship, the success of a recent Smith
consulting initiative is creating a lot of buzz - and it’s MBA students who are
leading the charge.
The Social Venture Consulting program was created in 2006 through the Dingman
Center for Entrepreneurship's partnership with Grassroots.org, a web site that provides
free web hosting to over 1,000 US non-profit companies. Grassroots founder Michael
Mann has contributed $35,000 to the program over a two-year period, and the program’s
focus in turn has been on serving the extensive Grassroots client base, harnessing
the social entrepreneurial expertise and enthusiasm of Smith students to
benefit nonprofit organizations. Now under the direction of the new Center for
Social Value Creation, the program invites nonprofit organizations to apply to participate and receive expert guidance from the
center and Smith MBA students
during each semester.
The program started small with just five student consultants and three projects,
but it has grown in leaps and bounds because of the success of past projects and
positive word of mouth from both students and non-profits. In Fall 2008, 44
students and 43 non-profit companies applied to the program. “One of the
unfortunate by-products of success is that the program cannot presently
accommodate everyone who wants to be involved,” says Melissa Carrier, executive
director of the Center for Social Value Creation.
One recent success story is the program's work with InterConnection Seattle.
Since 1999, InterConnection has worked to facilitate Internet access by providing
training, low-cost refurbished computers and Internet services to underserved local
and global populations. Interconnection then expanded abroad from Seattle to Uganda.
Interconnection turned to the Social Venture Consulting program to find out how
to best expand their operations to other countries and to seek management tools
that would help them make the best decisions as they expanded.
Smith MBA students and their faculty advisors utilized finance, marketing, and
global strategy concepts to help InterConnection discern appropriate business partners
in new markets. They developed a financial model and designed a brochure for marketing
"Interconnection was an opportunity to integrate multiple disciplines in a real-world
international business challenge. We were able to help an entrepreneurial not-for-profit
grow and build strong relationships with both part-time and full-time classmates
through a common interest," says Jonathan Holloway, part-time MBA student and member
of the consulting team for InterConnection.
|Initiative for Social Value Creation Launched in January
|The Smith School’s new Initiative for Social Value Creation brings together staff,
faculty and students to find solutions that address global challenges through innovation,
economic prosperity and sustainable change. The school recognizes the need to be
a part of understanding and innovating business practices that can make the world
a better place while bringing bottom-line profit and long-term value to companies.
The center will support research, curriculum and applied learning by immersing our
students in complex and evolving marketplaces where critical thinking, leadership,
and entrepreneurship are at the core of the experience.
Interconnection was enthusiastically positive about the contributions of the
Smith team. “The materials prepared by the student consultants have proven to be
very useful. We are actually developing a computer center in Cameroon thanks to
the document,” says Charles Brennick, director, Interconnection.
The Social Venture Consulting program has proven to be a win-win for non-profits
and students alike. The non-profits get a team of dedicated problem solvers to tackle
projects ranging from building marketing plans to building databases from scratch.
The students get a vehicle to be involved with transformative social change and
the opportunity put their skills to good use in the community around them. The program
has been so successful that the Center for Social Value Creation may launch similar Social Venture
programs at other universities under the Smith brand name.
For more information on the Social Venture Consulting Program—or to find a dedicated
group of MBA students to boost your non-profit company—go to