In the vibrant city of Toronto, social entrepreneurship education is establishing its mark amongst prominent post-secondary institutions. Educational institutions such as Humber College, York University and University of Toronto have introduced courses in the past few years to involve its student body in the emerging and multi-faceted field of social entrepreneurship.
Interestingly, not all social entrepreneurship courses in Toronto are offered under the institution’s business program. For instance, while York University offers a social entrepreneurship course under its Schulich School of Business, Humber offers its newly released social entrepreneurship course under the School of Liberal Arts & Science. In addition to that, University of Toronto offers a social entrepreneurship course under its School of Applied Science and Engineering.
Rumeet Billan, who was named one of Canada’s top 100 most powerful women in 2008 and 2011, is the CEO of Jobs in Education and a social entrepreneurship instructor at Humber.
Recalling her experiences, Billan mentions that starting a new social entrepreneurship course was not an easy feat as there was a lot of research involved in developing the course material. There was also some administrative work involved in getting the course approved. Still, the department at Humber was supportive of her efforts.
The emerging field of social entrepreneurship education intrigued Billan as it gave her the opportunity to connect with the youth and give back to the community. Based on the course feedback so far, the students at Humber are intrigued by social entrepreneurship due to its novel, practical, and impactful nature.
“How do you deal with the profit side, and how do you deal with the impact side,” said Billan when asked about common questions her students would have when enrolling in her course. Her students tend to enjoy the variety of learning methods, such as guest speakers and case studies, embedded in the course.
Diverse learning methods are common amongst the social entrepreneurship courses. Most of the social entrepreneurship courses have engaging projects, such as investment pitches and business model proposals, to accompany formal lectures. Case studies are also provided to give students the chance to analyze and learn from real social enterprises.
Furthermore, the students’ learning process is enhanced through guest speaker sessions. The guest speakers, who are experienced social enterprise professionals from different parts of the world, present themselves usually in person or via Skype to inform and interact with the students on social enterprise topics.
“The students are able to ask questions to someone who’s from Norway or New York or somewhere half way around the world, so they get excited about that,” said Billan.
The social entrepreneurship courses, like other courses offered in post-secondary institutions, have required readings. Although it is difficult to find many textbooks on social entrepreneurship, there is a myriad of articles and reports available from organizations such MaRS Discovery District and Enterprising Non-Profits, whose Canadian Social Enterprise Guide is also used by some social entrepreneurship educators in Toronto.
Considering the young stage of social entrepreneurship education in Canada, Billan is excited about the progress Toronto has made so far through initiatives like the School for Social Entrepreneurs Ontario in the Regent Park neighbourhood and the social entrepreneurship course at Humber.
She hopes that in the future, Canada will create a larger footprint in the social entrepreneurship education field through more post-secondary programs and scholarship opportunities.
“All business schools haven’t incorporated social entrepreneurship into their curriculum, or have given it a dedicated course,” added Billan, “Sometimes it’s just a unit within a course on entrepreneurship. But when you dig deeper and look into different concepts, then you can extend it into a long course.”
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