Social Entrepreneurship and Non-Profits

Have you considered a career as a social entrepreneur? This is an exciting career possibility, and it is within your reach if you major in sociology.

What is a social entrepreneur?
A social entrepreneur is someone who starts or builds an organization in order to achieve the goal of improving society. There are many types of organizations that a social entrepreneur might work in: a nonprofit organization, a cooperative (such as a food cooperative or a workers’ cooperative), a privately held small business that has a social or environmental responsibility mission, a faith-based organization, a social movement organization, an arts organization, or even a government agency.

Can you give me an example?
In the book How to Change the World, there are many examples, but one of the best is Fábio Rosa, a Brazilian social entrepreneur whose life goal is to bring electricity to the poor farmers in rural Brazil.  He remained faithful to this dream throughout his life, but the organizations that he worked in changed as new opportunities opened and closed. He ended up working in the government, as a small businessperson, and as the founder of a nonprofit organization.  Slowly he made a difference in the lives of thousands of rural farmers.

What kind of skills do I need?
As in the case of Fábio Rosa, often social entrepreneurs work in many different organizational settings throughout the course of their lives. So you need a broad skill set that will serve you well throughout your life.

There are two main types of skills, and that is why we recommend that you pursue both a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a minor in Managerial Studies with a focus on Leadership and Organization.

The degree in sociology will provide you with the skills to understand and identify social problems, to analyze possible solutions that have been proposed, and to figure out which solutions are the best for the particular circumstances that you are in. It is the intellectual foundation for a career in social entrepreneurship.

The minor in managerial studies will give you the technical skills to launch a successful career in the social enterprise sector. It includes courses in accounting, management, organization, human resources, and other crucial areas.

If I’m interested in social entrepreneurship, which sociology courses do you recommend?
Almost every sociology course is relevant, but a few are particularly relevant:

  • Courses on social movements, such as “Change and Social Movements Since the 1960s,” “Environmental Inequality and Justice,” “American Social Movements,” and “Self, Society, and Social Change”
  • Courses on social problems, such as “Racial Domination, Racial Progress,” “Climate Change and Society,” “Race, Gender, and Health”
  • Courses on innovation and organizations, such as “Creativity and Innovation in Society,” “Human Behavior in Organizations”
  • Courses that give you analytical skills, such as “Statistics for Social Scientists,” “Sociological Perspectives, and “Introduction to Social Research”
  • Courses on law and politics, such as “Law and Society,” “Politics, State, and Society,” “Women and Public Policy in America”

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