We have liftoff! Thirty students managed to find their way to the Haas Innovation Lab, better known as the ILab, for the first Fall 22 Social Entrepreneurship class. Last year the class was held in one of the more traditional Haas lecture halls, and while beautiful and LEED-certified, I found the location a bit stuffy. The ILab, by contrast, is a more open space with movable chairs and desks, located improbably in the bowels of the Stadium. My friend Susie Wise (check out her wonderful new book Design for Belonging), has taught me a lot about space as a lever of design, and I was struck by how palpably different it felt to be launching the class from this explicitly collaborative classroom.
We jumped right in with Bill Drayton who Zoomed in from Washington DC, and immediately challenged the students to see themselves as changemakers and social entrepreneurs. Bill focused his remarks on a couple of different Ashoka Fellows, the shared qualities of social entrepreneurs and their collective orientation to systems change. He also talked about the historical context of the rise of social entrepreneurship. I have heard Bill make similar remarks any number of times, but as I was listening this time, I was particularly struck by his defining the moment by the explosion in both the rate of change and the rate of interconnection. This was at the root, he explained, of the new inequality – the defining distinction between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ being their respective ability to move from a world of work that emphasized repetition to a world where the key to success was the ability to adapt to (if not drive) rapid change.
Bill described his own youthful start as a changemaker during the civil rights movement, the power of recognizing patterns, and the importance of questioning/not always following the rules. The irony of that final point as I launched into an overview of the course structure and expectations – including the (in my opinion) delightful no screens policy that is a Haas norm - did not escape me. Watching the students watching Bill was both fascinating and a little nerve-wracking for me. Did they get what a big deal he was? Was he being too abstract? I think they did and that he wasn’t., but I was also struck by how language can so easily ‘other’ us. When Bill was talking about ways of measuring the presence of changemaking, he referenced YouTube ‘clientele,’ as opposed to calling them followers, and the use of this term from a bygone era created just a brief moment of disconnect. It wasn’t a big deal in any way – nothing at all by way of comparison to what my non-native English speaking students are dealing with all the time - but in the moment it was notable and made me wonder about ways to address these more subtle manifestations of difference.
As planned, I introduced myself and Melissa, the course Reader, talked a bit about her experience working with Teach for Malaysia and studying in the UK. A second year MBA candidate, Melissa briefly described her summer internship learning more about capital markets, and offered to support the students as they needed, available to talk about anything they might want to discuss. As she was speaking, I could not help but recognize how valuable it is to have someone involved in delivering the course who is closer, both in age and experience, to the students. We then broke into groups and I invited the students to go around and answer the “Three Minute Know Me” questions, which I’ve included below.
The class wrapped up with some housekeeping, and a few students came up afterwards to introduce themselves. Having taught the previous year in a masked environment, it was a delight to be both unmasked and able to see the students’ full faces. Since the pandemic I have become acutely aware of how much I rely on peoples’ in-person energy and facial expressions when I am speaking to a group. No class this week because of Labor Day, so we will resume on the 12th with Alexandra Bernadotte, the founder of Beyond 12, as our guest.
Readings for this coming week: Guclu/Dees/Anderson “The Process of Social Entrepreneurship,”
Marshall Ganz, “Social Enterprise is Not Social Change”
Michael Zakaras, “Is Social Entrepreneurship Misunderstood?”
Plus a podcast: Innovation That Matters: How to Coach Students Without Trying to Fix Them
Three Minute Know Me: I asked the students to share their names, pronouns, year and course of study and then to answer these questions:
● When I want to chill, I listen to ____
● People know I’m excited when I _____
● When people meet my family, they are surprised by _____
● When I need some alone time, I like to ____
● You’ll know that I’m stressed when I _____
● My favorite stretch is ____
● It’s easier for me to ask for help when _____
● I feel most confident when _____
● My favorite pick-me-up is ____
● I feel like being around people when _____
● A favorite simple indulgence is ______
● My friends think it’s weird that I ____
● I learn best by ____
● I wanted to take this class because _____
People need meaning, the opportunity for mastery, and community to thrive. Creating opportunities for people to contribute, and to find their best selves is some of the most important work we can do.