Teaching business with a double bottom line

Some are calling it the “me to we” generation. Today’s graduates don’t want to choose between chasing wealth and making the world a better place. In the world of social enterprise, Mount Royal University is distinctly positioned to contribute to a value-minded economy.

Words by Bryan Weismiller
Illustrations by Christina Riches

James Stauch is intently drawing squiggly lines in his notebook. The outwardly simple scribble he’s penning actually represents the complex continuum in which private sector businesses operate. Not unlike political or economic spectrums, there’s a left and right side to his model. Purely profit-driven companies occupy one end, whereas socially-motivated organizations take up the other edge.

The centre of the scale is depicted with large loopy circles — and it’s a space of great interest to Stauch and his colleagues at Mount Royal University’s newly-reminted Institute for Community Prosperity at the Bissett School of Business. It’s where social enterprise lives and social innovators thrive.

“We are seeing social enterprise take off with gusto as Generation Y entrepreneurs redefine the workforce,” says Stauch, who came to Mount Royal in 2014 to take over what was then the Institute for Nonprofit Studies as its new director. He arrived with a mission to help evolve and expand teaching not-for-profit.

Social enterprise has formed a distinct identity at Mount Royal. Stauch and his team (including Jill Andres, MBA; Lesley Cornelisse, MA; Peter Elson, PhD and Pat Letizia, B.Sc.) recently re-christened Nonprofit Studies as the Institute for Community Prosperity. As an extension of a teaching-focused University, Stauch and company contribute directly to the classroom experience by co-creating academic curricula, delivering guest lectures and teaching courses.

They will be the first to tell you, the era of the cut-throat tycoon may be winding down. The next generation of business magnates are more interested in paying it forward while making a profit than building a financial empire on the backs of others.

The intersection of high principle and hard cash has a lengthy history, the term social enterprise only entered our common vernacular over the past two decades. Simply put, it’s about creating communities that are prosperous, not only economically, but also socially, ecologically and culturally.

When it comes to tangible examples of social innovators, look no further than the Kielburger brothers of Free The Children. They, with their We Day series, are instilling a can-do spirit in arena-sized crowds of grade school students across North America.

The Me to We Foundation acts as a financial arm for the Kielburger’s efforts through the sale of socially conscious and environmentally-friendly products.

"Making money and making a positive difference in the world are not mutually exclusive goals."

— Anna Johnson, fourth-year Bachelor of Business Administration student

All this altruistic entrepreneurship doesn’t mean today’s business grads aren’t still interested in their bottom line. Take Anna Johnson, a fourth-year Bachelor of Business Administration student who is set to graduate this December with a double major in Social Innovation and Nonprofit Studies.

When she first enrolled in the program, friends and family members often asked: “How are you going to make any money?”

“Most people don’t realize we are paid to work,” Johnson says. “Making money and making a positive difference in the world are not mutually exclusive goals.”

As a summer student at social purpose consulting firm Creating Value Inc., Johnson received hands-on experience working with a range of clients, including the Alzheimer Society of Calgary, Calgary Can and The Naaco (food) Truck. Her classroom learning, coupled with work through the not-for-profit student group Enactus, gave her the skills needed to carry out the organization’s mandate of transforming communities for the better.

“It’s not your average nine-to-five desk job,” says Johnson. “Every day, I met with new, exciting challenges and learning opportunities.”

Stauch (who in previous careers worked extensively with the not-for-profit sector and Aboriginal communities across Canada) and the team at Mount Royal are beginning to partner with external organizations to focus the conversation about social enterprise in Calgary.

One of the first major city initiatives of that ilk took shape in 2009 when Mount Royal partnered with the Trico Foundation, Enterprising Nonprofits Canada and Simon Fraser University to release the University Social Enterprise Sector Survey. The project measured the size, scope and scale of social enterprises at a provincial and territorial level across Canada. Last year, Mount Royal hosted a pre-conference research event in affiliation with the 2014 Social Enterprise World Forum.

“There’s a deep and extensive history of social enterprise in Calgary and it is very much in tune with the spirit of the city,” says Stauch, citing successful examples of social enterprise in Calgary such as the cooperative models of First Calgary Financial and Calgary Co-op.

When it comes to strategic vision, the Institute for Community Prosperity moves in lockstep with the University to advance undergraduate research and community-responsive programs. Each year, up to 10 senior students can get funding to turn their research ideas into conference-ready papers. The Institute offers additional funding for travel costs, academic mentorship and summer jobs.

“One of the secrets of Mount Royal is that it’s a wonderful place to earn an undergraduate degree if you want to continue in an academic career,” Stauch says. “You have more research opportunities here as an undergraduate than many research-driven institutions.”

In addition to supplying a pipeline of knowledge to the community, the Institute for Community Prosperity attracts community leaders to the campus.

Jill Andres works part-time at Mount Royal under the title of Changemaker in Residence. Andres brings an industry insider’s view to campus, having been on the frontlines of social, cultural and environmental change for the past decade as the founder and principal consultant at the aforementioned Creating Value Inc.

She believes the chasm between social-purpose and profit-driven organizations is narrowing. But rather than look at the social enterprise model as shifting inward from either direction, Andres prefers to say it’s growing from the middle out. She credits the millennial generation for driving the change through their search for fulfilling careers.

“Changing the world doesn’t have a specific legal structure,” Andres says. “We’re seeing more and more students seeking meaningful work wherever they can find it.

“There’s an expectation that the wages be commensurate to the skills they’re bringing and the difference they’re making.”

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