Teaching entrepreneurship and social innovation at Wilfrid Laurier - Macleans.ca
 

Teaching entrepreneurship and social innovation at Wilfrid Laurier

It’s not enough to have good products anymore. Companies need a pristine reputation as well.


 



      The Laurier LaunchPad at Wildfed Laurier University is an innovative program where you work towards launching your own business. Both students and alumni can roll up their sleeves and apply what they learn to their new venture. (Tomasz Adamski/Wilfred Laurier University)

      The Laurier LaunchPad is an innovative program where you work towards launching your own business. Both students and alumni can roll up their sleeves and apply what they learn to their new venture. (Tomasz Adamski/Wilfred Laurier University)

      Companies can’t just make great products anymore. To attract a certain portion of consumers these days, the brand’s ethics and values need to be pristine too. That’s why, in 2015, Wilfrid Laurier launched their entrepreneurship and social innovation option (soon to be a major).The program combines philosophy and social sciences with traditional business education. “The end goal is getting students to use their degree in ways that contribute to solving social problems while also building businesses that pay them—and hopefully others as well,” says Joanne Benham Rennick, a professor in the program and the executive director of the Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation at Laurier.

      Students begin the program by contemplating a complex and deeply profound question rarely considered in traditional business courses: “We ask them to figure out who they are,” says Benham Rennick. “We work on figuring out the inner so they can connect with others and think about the outer.” It may sound far-out, but it’s an important foundation that helps distinguish a genuinely socially conscious enterprise from one that’s feigning it.

      During the program, students learn how to engage with their community and potential consumers, build a business plan and prepare to launch. Once they are ready to launch, students have access to mentors and incubators to help them succeed—a key advantage of studying in Waterloo, Canada’s start-up capital.

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