Poverty Pitch

The intersection of American business and global poverty


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[INTERVIEW] Why B’s are the new A, and local is the new global

A Photo of Jennifer Walske with an wooden mask and clock that came from her late father's trips to South Africa

Professor Jennifer Walske, the current Director of Social Entrepreneurship at the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship

B-corps that is. Yet another way for businesses to engage in social action. I just wrapped my head around companies doing Corporate Social Responsibility, and smaller businesses doing Social Entrepreneurship – are things about to change again?

Let’s back up a bit.

My eyes lingered on the 2 framed documents to my right as I was setting down my backpack in Professor Jennifer Walske’s office. The certificate for Earl F. Cheit Outstanding Teaching Award  told me a lot about the caliber of Professor Walske at University of California, Berkeley‘s Haas School of Business. But, I was more impressed by the photo right below this distinguished award. It was a framed photo of Phi Beta Lambda (one of Berkeley’s undergraduate business fraternities) with a thank you message to Professor Walske for her participation in the organization’s game night. This photo put me at ease, not just because I saw some people I knew in the photo, but  because it gave me the impression that this is a professor that makes time for her students and cherishes these relationships.

Why do her students matter? They are the future of Social Entrepreneurship. Professor Walske spoke about the excitement of her students for this developing field. According to her, “they don’t necessarily see the world the way the world has been so maybe they are able to think about innovative ways to affect change…that is one of the key tenets of entrepreneurship.” However, she says that even if this is an exciting time with many young people interested in entrepreneurship, it is important that they “do not reinvent the wheel.” One of her goals as an educator is to ensure that her students also learn from the past so that they can avoid repeating mistakes, while at the same remain open to fresh ideas.

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All is Fair (Trade) in Love and Soccer

"warning: children playing soccer" sign

Warning: soccer empowers youth
(photo credit: Vinicius Depizzol via creative commons)

Maybe not everyone can have the reach that big name corporations have with their social initiatives. Is it even worthwhile for smaller businesses to engage in similar programs if they dont have the resources of a major corporation?

Senda is a Berkeley-based social enterprise that creates fair trade soccer balls for youth athletic training programs around the world. They seem to have it all figured out. They managed to create a business that helps the environment, that provides quality jobs for poor laborers to help their communities, that empowers the underserved youth through sports, and that can be commercially competitive while still partnering with non-profit organizations. What is their secret? They found their niche and made it work.

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