Moving America Forward

Want to Change the World? Here’s Your Social Impact Cheatsheet

September 25, 2018
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Want to Change the World? Here’s Your Social Impact Cheatsheet
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A group of students from USC Marshall School of Business on a social impact trip to Peru. Photo Courtesy of Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab, USC Marshall School of Business
Schools now cater to students who want careers in the social-impact sector. Here are some programs to check out.

The role of business in the world has changed radically over the past couple of decades. No longer can companies conduct business as they did a generation ago, with an eye to the bottom line and not much else: Nearly two-thirds of Americans now believe that companies should take the lead in driving social and environmental change.

Much of the move toward social responsibility is being driven by millennials, who are by and large digital natives steeped in social media and have proven especially adept at promoting causes online. And as the sentiments of millennials continue to influence business affairs — a recent Deloitte report found, for example, that millennial workers seek out employers that share the same social values — it makes sense that social impact has been codified by academia as well.

“A decade ago, only a handful of schools invested in [social impact]; today, almost 50 percent of the top 50 business schools in the world host a social impact program, initiative, or center,” reads a Bridgespan group report on universities that offer opportunities within the social-impact sector.

Lynn Wooten, senior associate dean at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, agrees. “[Today’s 18-21 year olds] have a depleted tolerance for the business models of old,” she writes in the Financial Times. “They do not merely expect but instead demand that the businesses they frequent as consumers, and will someday lead as professionals, are focused on affecting the greater good of their communities and the world.”

So if you’re looking for a career in the world of social impact — but don’t know exactly where to begin — here are three schools that offer social impact opportunities within the areas of art and design, journalism and entrepreneurship.  

School of Visual Arts, New York City

Master of Fine Arts in Design for Social Innovation

This two-year program revolves around the design of products and services that aim for impact within the social, environmental and government sectors. The program partners graduate students with multinational organizations to help solve social issues.

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The SVA Master of Fine Arts in Design for Social Innovation pairs graduate students with multinational organizations to help solve social issues.Photo courtesy of Design for Social Innovation Department at SVA

Newmark School of Journalism at City University of New York

Master of Arts in Social Journalism

An intensive nine-month program spins journalism on its head, with a focus on how to measure impact and how to report on impact in a thoughtful manner. Students partner with leading news organizations like ProPublica and the Guardian to build out a project or an internship that reports on specific communities around the globe.

*Disclaimer: This writer graduated from the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism

University of Southern California Marshall School of Business

Master of Science in Social Entrepreneurship

With the option of completing your degree full-time in one year, or part-time over several years, the L.A.-based business school offers a program focusing on impact investing, environmental sustainability and global social impact. Students in their capstone develop detailed business plans with an existing organization, or get to develop a new social-impact opportunity with a new organization.

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