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New School of Business Center Teaches Social Entrepreneurship

Paul Miesing, left, addresses ALT.1 conference in June, which connected entrepreneurs such as Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of Boulder, Colo., medical information systems company CaraSolva, at right, with the needs of the elderly and people with disabilities. (Photos by Mark Schmidt) 

ALBANY, N.Y. (December 4, 2015) -- The newest School of Business research center, The Center for Advancement and Understanding of Social Enterprises (CAUSE), promotes social entrepreneurship at the university and in the region by building on the School's strengths in research, teaching and service, and by applying business expertise to benefit business, government and the nonprofit sector.

Management professor Paul Miesing created CAUSE after substantial experience in the social responsibilities of business, dating back to when he was hired by the School of Business to teach The Social, Political and Legal Environment of Business more than 30 years ago.

Social entrepreneurs provide social benefits and show a profit. One example is the Greyston Bakery in Yonkers which has supplied brownies for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream since 1988. Greyston hires hard-to-employ individuals, some of whom were previously incarcerated, to bake the quintessential brownies, thus fulfilling a social need and making money at the same time. Through its nonprofit foundation, Greyston invests 100 percent of its profits back into the community. Another type of social enterprise, WaterHealth, offers an environmental and social benefit: a filter to reduce contamination of drinking water in developing countries.

Miesing pointed out that the School of Business's Small Enterprise Economic Development program, known as SEED, is a social enterprise. The innovative $2.5 million award-winning program, established in 2011, provides microloans and technical and business assistance to local entrepreneurs who do not meet traditional lending criteria. Miesing supervises graduate students who serve as SEED interns. With UAlbany Assistant Vice Provost for Student Engagement Linda Krzykowski, he oversees Going Green Globally, the MBA cornerstone experience focusing on environmental sustainability. Miesing has worked with SEED and G3 from the start.

Though the center was created only recently, events have already been held to further the “CAUSE.” In May, Miesing held a workshop to create commentaries, exercises and cases for a workbook to be used for teaching social entrepreneurship. Miesing is working with Maria Aggestam from Lund University in Sweden on Educating Social Entrepreneurs: A Workbook of Cases, Exercises and Commentaries, Business Expert Press for the United Nations Principles for Responsible Management Education Book Collection.

In June, ALT.1, a conference in assistive living technology, connected entrepreneurs with innovators to facilitate startups that would develop products and services for senior citizens and people with disabilities. CAUSE collaborated with Living Resources, a Capital Region nonprofit with more than 40 years of experience in working with a disabled population. A second ALT conference is in the works for the spring.

CAUSE hopes to incorporate assistive living technology into the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) training and leadership program and skill-based technical incubator. Miesing accessed YLAI, an international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State to develop entrepreneurial skills and enhance economic opportunities for young professionals in the Americas, through an association with the International Center of the Capital Region.

In June, CAUSE partnered with SUNY schools of Social Welfare at UAlbany, Buffalo, Binghamton and Stony Brook to sponsor the Forum on Social and Economic Development, featuring speakers from Russia, Peru and China, as well as the UAlbany Small Business Development Center’s SEED program. The Standish Professor of Entrepreneurship, Bill Wales, also spoke. Topics included: economies in transition, entrepreneurship among low-income populations and strategic roles for social entrepreneurship.

Follow-up forums on social and economic development have been held to organize a book volume spanning disciplines. Associate Professor of Social Welfare Blanca Ramos, former Dean of the School of Social Welfare Katharine Briar-Lawson and Miesing are editing Social and Economic Development in Transitioning and Market-Based Economies: Social Enterprises, Entrepreneurship and Microenterprise as Integrating Institutions for SUNY Press.

CAUSE’s reach has extended overseas. Miesing’s class module, Environment and Green Business and Social Entrepreneurship, is offered through UAlbany’s Global Institute for Health and Human Rights. The training was translated into Farsi and is being used in Iran and Afghanistan. Later, it will be translated into Urdu and offered in Pakistan. Miesing said, “Pollution creates health problems. Social enterprise turns environmental problems into economic opportunity.”

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