Social Entrepreneurship, Student Recruitment, and the Imagine Cup

What do these three concepts have to do with each other? Well it might be obvious that the Imagine Cup may be used as a tool for student recruitment in MIS, computer science, and IT programs. However, what does social entrepreneurship have to do with all this? Heck, for that matter what is social entrepreneurship? Well, just indulge me a bit and I will do my best to tie the three together.

First of all, let’s talk social entrepreneurship. The concept of social entrepreneurship is basically the same as the entrepreneurship that you are familiar with, with one notable difference. Social entreperneurs use all of the same tools as regular entrepreneurs, but they use those tools to create social change instead of for gaining profit.

The businesses that these social entrepreneurs create are called social enterprises. Social enterprises deal with many challenges. Two of the most pressing of these problems are that social enterprises generally have to carry out their missions with inconsistent funding (often under funding) and often with an all-volunteer work force. This means that social enterprises have to constantly engage in innovation in order remain effective.

Technology is one tool that social enterprises use to assist with this innovation. However, many social entrepreneurs are not technologists. In fact, they generally come from areas such as the sciences, sociology, political science, and other non-technological areas. This isn’t surprising because if a person has a passion for, let’s say enviormental issues, they might not go running to an information systems or computer science program as a major.

However, if you look at many of the entries in the Imagine Cup, they all deal with the same issues as social entrepreneurs. They also deal with these issues using technology. So if you think about it, since the Imagine Cup is focused on finding solutions to the world’s biggest problems, it is essentially a competition in social entrepreneurship. Furthermore, since knowledge of technology is becoming more and more necessary for social enterprises to survive, why not use the Imagine Cup as a tool to increase student enrollment in computer science, MIS and IT programs?

It makes perfect sense when you think about it. Students in the non-technical fields will get the technical knowledge that they will need to make their social enterprises more effective and efficient, the technical programs will get increased enrollment (which is a concern for those programs), and the Imagine Cup gets a shot of multi-disciplinary participation that will only make the entries better (see my post on successful Imagine Cup entries).

It also makes for a pretty compelling case to sell Imagine Cup to the administration of a program or college. Since student enrollment is, in one sense the measure of the viability of a program, any way that it can be increased is something that an administrator might listen to. Anyway, I would like to hear your thoughts on the subject if you have any!

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