Capitalism 2.0: Global Perspectives: Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship

Paula A. Cordeiro

Career Transitions

In June 2015 I left the position as Dean of the School of Leadership and Education Sciences at the University of San Diego where I had the privilege of serving in that role for 17 years.  A philanthropist who believed in my work, and said he supported talented people, sponsored me to work for two international NGOs who provide microfinance and training for low-cost private schools in low and middle-income nations. I began a career transition and eventually I became VP of education for one of the NGOs.  After a few amazing years I returned to the University to assist in the development of a new master’s degree in the Kroc School of Peace Studies—a Masters in Social Innovation (MASI).

Thus, I made a career change from working in PK-12 schools and with graduate students in educational leadership to working in, and with, various forms of social enterprises and with graduate students in a program of social innovation and impact. In many ways it was a natural transition. My work as a faculty member and then dean had always included partnering with and serving on boards of community-based organizations, foundations and government agencies, and focusing on innovation in education.

The Next Part of the Journey

It was during the pandemic while teaching my courses in Social Entrepreneurship online that I first started to think about expanding my teaching to include professional learning opportunities for midcareer professionals who want to better understand and support social enterprises and their impact on society.  While working in countries such as Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Guatemala, I saw amazing examples of organizations that valued ‘people’ and ‘planet’ and not only ‘profit’ – the “3Ps”. I witnessed first-hand how worker-ownership has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life, for the employee, his/her family, and the villages where they live.  I connected with B-certified organizations that did their best to operationalize the 3Ps and to spread the word on the certified B-Corps movement.

people planet profit (3Ps)

In the Kroc School, we offer our students amazing experiences in the classroom, local communities, and internationally so they can examine these concepts and visit organizations living these values.  So, I started to ask myself– why don’t we offer these opportunities to business executives who want to do business better. I shared the idea of a global seminar on social innovation and entrepreneurship with some of the leading companies and non-profit social enterprises and with two donors/investors, who agreed to invest seed capital for the development of a global seminar course.

Creating a Global Seminar for Business Executives

Using a design thinking approach and creating ‘personas’ of the types of people who might enroll in a global social entrepreneurship seminar, I’ve now interviewed more than thirty individuals across North America and Europe to get their feedback on program structure, content, marketing and pricing. Based on their input, the participants will spend 5 days in three locations – San Diego, Spain and Rwanda spread out over eight months.  Between each session there will be zoom sessions with some of the leading experts on these topics.

Visiting Companies in Spain and Rwanda

Rwanda’s Mountain Gorillas

Because I’ve lived and worked in Spain and spent a lot of time working in Rwanda as well, I decided to begin with these nations. Spain has the amazing Mondragon cooperatives a premier example of worker-ownership. Additionally, there is a vibrant and rapidly growing certified B corps community. Rwanda is being transform with government support, business friendly policies and with many outside organizations –both for profit and NGOs investing deeply in people and programs.  It’s a fascinating place to explore what economist Mariana Mazzucato writes about in Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism (2021): “The problem is not ‘big government’ or ‘small government’. The problem is the type of government: what it does and how (p. 22).  She further comments, “Change comes from reimagining how different organizations and actors in the economy co-create value (p. 10).”  Rwanda is a country reimaging itself and experimenting with ideas to rapidly develop a nation. It is doing so by intertwining all three sectors—private, public and non-profit.

Now that we have a draft curriculum outline and program format, the next step is to identify organizations we will take participants to during the seminar.

So, shortly I’m off to Spain with a faculty colleague, Juan Roche, and then to Rwanda with another colleague, Karen Henken. Both have worked in these countries and together the three of us will develop the content and programming for the global seminar.

We are building it, but will anyone come?

During our careers there can sometimes be options to either continue to enjoy what we are currently doing or to take another risk.  It’s taking a risk to work on this. What if we spend all this time and effort to build this global seminar for business executives and no one enrolls? I ask myself: Why don’t I just teach at the university and be content? Then, I think of what one of my favorite writers, Mark Twain, wrote:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

My husband David and I sailing on San Diego Bay in his 60 year old sailboat — Colibri.

 So, stay tuned!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.