Center for Advancement and Understanding of Social Enterprises

ALT.1 keynote speaker: Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Robert Geer Sr. Ph.D., SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

 Management professor Paul Miesing created the Center for Advancement & Understanding of Social Enterprises after much experience in social entrepreneurship, dating back to his first teaching gig at the School of Business over 30 years ago when he was hired to teach “The Social, Political and Legal Environment of Business.”

The newest center in the School of Business, CAUSE, promotes social entrepreneurship at the university and in the region by building on School of Business strengths in research, teaching and service, and by applying business expertise to benefit business, government and the nonprofit sector. Similar efforts are in place at Duke University, Emory University, Georgetown University, Northeastern University, Northwestern University, the University of Maryland and the University of Utah.

Social entrepreneurs provide social benefits and show a profit. For instance, the Greyston Bakery in Yonkers which has supplied the 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 example type of social enterprise, WaterHealth, offers an environmental and social benefit: a filter to reduce contamination of drinking water in developing countries.

Dr. 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 SEED program, established in 2011, provides microloans and technical and business assistance to local entrepreneurs who do not meet traditional lending criteria. SEED now falls under the CAUSE umbrella as does Going Green Globally, the MBA capstone course focusing on sustainability. Miesing has been involved with both efforts from the start.

Though the center was created only recently, events have already been held to further the “CAUSE.” In May, Professor Miesing held a workshop to create cases for a workbook to be used for teaching social entrepreneurship. In June, a conference in assistive living technology, named ALT.1, was an opportunity for innovators and entrepreneurs with an interest in developing 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.

On Friday, June 26, CAUSE will partner with SUNY Schools of Social Welfare at Albany, 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. Newly appointed Standish Professor of Entrepreneurship, Bill Wales, will also speak. Topics include: economies in transition, entrepreneurship among low-income populations and strategic roles for social entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship is growing in the School of Business. Miesing teaches an undergraduate elective in social entrepreneurship. A new concentration in entrepreneurship has been added to the fulltime MBA program. Supporting the development of entrepreneurship in the school, Bill Wales, most recently of James Madison University, becomes the first Standish Professor of Entrepreneurship this fall.

See the CAUSE website for more information. 

MBA alumni Bob Lazar '77 and April Volk '90, '11 at the ALT.1 conference held by the Center for Advancement and Understanding of Social Enterprises in June.