Social Entrepreneurship

SE winning team

Social Entrepreneurship @ R-MC

Want to change the world? Thanks to the Social Entrepreneurship program at Randolph-Macon, students can learn to do just that.

Social Entrepreneurship uses lessons and ideas from commercial entrepreneurship to find solutions to social problems. This is often described as "doing well by doing good," where entrepreneurs try to use the revenue generated by businesses to address existing social problems.

Housed in the Political Science department and directed by Assistant Professor Rich Meagher, this program offers unique opportunities for students of all majors to learn about social change. "This may sound grandiose," says Professor Meagher, "but students really do learn about how to change the world. Social entrepreneurs are working to find practical, economically sustainable solutions to our toughest problems -- poverty, lack of education, homelessness."

Professor Meagher teaches a Social Entrepreneurship class each fall. Students use approaches from political science, sociology, and business studies to learn about the field, and then get hands-on experience working with a local social entrepreneur. "The entrepreneur is our client," notes Meagher; "students have to come up with ideas to help them advance their mission."

In 2014 students worked with eWaste Tech Systems Inc., a Richmond-based electronics recycling company that operates in an economically disadvantaged "Hubzone" in the city. Students met the company leaders, visited the worksite, and learned about challenges the company faced. They then designed and implemented group projects to help address these challenges; solutions ranged from a social media campaign to a survey of potential clients. They presented their results to their clients at the end of the term, with the clients selecting the project that best addressed their needs. Meagher says that "students really respond to a little friendly competition; still, they all did a terrific job, and our clients were immensely pleased." (Read about the results of student projects here.)

The College hosts a Social Entrepreneurship Week each fall, where entrepreneurs come to campus to share their stories, along with films and other events. The program often works with student groups on campus, including Habitat for Humanity and Nourish International, to host events and educate students and community members about entrepreneurial solutions to social problems.

Professor Meagher has been working in the field since 2010, even co-facilitating a workshop at the 2012 Ashoka Exchange, a national gathering of faculty, students, staff, and entrepreneurs to share ideas and information on social innovation in higher education. Meagher traveled to Tucson, Arizona to help attendees discuss ways to build social entrepreneurship programs at institutions that are not large research universities.

Social Entrepreneurship @ R-MC is sponsored in part by the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation. For more information, please contact Professor Meagher at richardmeagher at rmc.edu.