OPINION: UK MBAs must boldly take on enterprise role

Geraldine Peacock, a charity commissioner and a civil service commissioner

I am going to New England in the Fall. I have this opportunity because Harvard Business School is using a case study on The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association for the leadership module on its MBA in Social Enterprise.

Perhaps with this in mind, I nodded off travelling up to the Lakes for the bank holiday weekend and had a vivid dream, influenced possibly as well by a programme I had watched about how Patrick Stewart's career took off after he joined the Starship Enterprise, and a book of John Betjeman's poetry I had been reading. In the dream I was facing a class of Harvard students asking me about the UK voluntary sector. I answered in Betjeman doggerel (with apologies):

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I woke up gloomily, because it's true. As we enter a period of rapid growth for the not-for-profit sector, where can we study social enterprise in British academic institutions? Up until now, the main focus of academic study in this country, as far as the voluntary sector is concerned, has been management, finance, law and social policy. And the voluntary sector does not form part of MBA programmes here, whereas in the US students from public, private and voluntary sectors can study together for an MBA in social enterprise before forming cross-sector networks.

These links are just starting to happen here. I am aware of at least three initiatives in academic centres that are beginning to focus on social enterprise. After all, there's a big potential market, linked in with both the not-for-profit search for sustainability and the corporate sector's developing CSR agenda.

Like the voyages of the Enterprise these initiatives "boldly go" - voyages that, as the social historian GM Trevelyan might say, "begin in a failure of perception among intellectual specialists but find fulfilment in policy and action".

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