Do well by doing good. Within the social sector and beyond, that phrase that has become a much-abused cliché and even the subject of some recent controversy. But on university campuses today, it speaks to something very real: Students today are eager pursue viable careers that will enable them to achieve beneficial social impact.
But how? This urge to do good, we have found, is often as inchoate as it its fervent. Many of the students we encounter through our teaching at Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) do find ways to serve genuine human needs. Too often, though, students become captivated by “business for good” models that are long on marketing appeal and short on proven impact: buy-one-get-one schemes that allow consumers to send some product to the poor and needy simply by purchasing that product for themselves, or enterprises that market fancy branded products (ice cream, salad dressing, and the like) and give some of the profits “to charity.”
The notion that efforts of this kind will make an appreciable dent in the world’s most pressing problems is dubious at best. Students deserve better.
In our previous Forbes column article, “Big Topic on Campus–Doing Well By Doing Good,” we discussed the increasingly high profile that the social sector now enjoys at colleges and universities, and we linked that trend to our longstanding “crusade” to bring greater rigor to the sector.
In this article, we will delve into the challenge of creating academic programs that equip students to have lasting impact.