In Management Lab, Sweet Briar students work in teams of three to carry out a series of projects they’ve developed. One student serves as the accountant for each project, one as the event planner, and one as the marketing director. Each year all Management Lab projects are for the benefit of a particular cause: this year, it’s the Alzheimer’s Association.
The projects students in the Lab have pulled off this semester include a Powder Puff football game, a consignment sale, a “Memory Walk,” a day of fasting, and a Sweet Briar calendar for 2011. (Good entrepreneurs that they are, I’m sure they would want me to let readers know that they can be contacted by email by anyone who would like to purchase one!)
What’s notable about this approach, I think, is the way it encourages students to break through assumptions they might have about the relationship of business and the non-profit sector. The understandings and skills business students develop can and will certainly pay off in the for-profit world, if that is where they choose to apply themselves. But those same understandings and skills can be used to advance the missions of non-profit organizations and initiatives.
This convergence of business savvy and non-profit mission is reflected in a number of new models, including “venture philanthropy” and “social entrepreneurship,” among others. These models, whatever they are called, share a perspective: understanding management, markets, finance, and other “business” topics can help non-profits operate with greater impact and greater stability. The essential difference between the sectors is the nature of the value that is created: in for-profit business, the value that is pursued is monetary, while in non-profit organizations the value pursued is a social good.
I’m delighted that Management Lab shows our students that they can develop as entrepreneurial business thinkers while supporting the causes that are meaningful to them. This will make them more socially aware as business leaders, more financially effective as non-profit leaders, and real powerhouses as volunteers!