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Student Experiences

Do Good Better

Inside the Classroom

Doing good even better is a tall order, but it’s one that BYU Marriott’s MSB 375 course, Social Innovation: Do Good Better, has successfully taken on since its inception in 2011.

A classroom full of students focused one one girl writing in a notebook

According to the course description, the class “focuses on the most prominent approaches used in social innovation and entrepreneurship. Students [who attend the class] develop skills in analyzing social ventures, including root-cause analysis, solution evaluation, and social-impact measurement.” Todd Manwaring, the director of the Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance, which oversees the course, adds, “The goal is to have students leave the class with the confidence to pursue a life of purpose.”

Charged with helping students learn to solve social problems, the Ballard Center hosts the Peery Social Entrepreneurship program. Manwaring calls the Social Innovation course a “bedrock foundation” of that program. “We wanted to focus on teaching students the process of taking the time to understand exactly what’s going on—what’s causing the problem—so they can participate completely in the solution,” he explains. “That understanding brings long-lasting benefits that go far beyond simply solving a problem.”

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Manwaring calls the social innovation course a “bedrock foundation” of the entrepreneurship program.
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As an advisor to the Ballard Center, Jessamyn Shams-Lau, executive director of the Peery Foundation, worked closely with Manwaring and others to create the course curriculum. As they researched what should be included in the course, Shams-Lau noted that most universities, including BYU, provided ample courses, competitions, and training for students interested in becoming social entrepreneurs, but only a small fraction of students fall into that category. “The greater number of students were hungry for a way to learn about and build skills relevant to social innovation without starting their own organizations,” she says. “These students might want to work for an existing social-innovation organization or sit on a nonprofit board—or simply want to be more informed about their own charitable giving.”

There was no curriculum for this, observes Shams-Lau, who actually taught portions of the class via video from her office in Palo Alto, California, the first semester. “So we created a course where students could learn about what social innovation is and isn’t,” she says, “as well as how to assess which approaches and organizations are doing the best work, and how they can individually incorporate doing good into their lives and careers to the degree that suits them.”

BYU Marriott offers three sections of the course every semester: two for undergrads and one for MBA students. Although it’s not required for graduation, each section fills up quickly. “It’s an elective class for a number of majors throughout the university,” says Manwaring. “Out of the one hundred students who take the class every semester, fifty different majors may be represented.

Our mandate at the Ballard Center is to reach everyone across campus, and this course is one of the ways we do that.

Much of what the center does helps the world in a prosaic way, he notes. “But there’s always a group of students in every major who are trying to identify how they can use what they’re learning to make the world a better place. For those students, this is where they find that connection.”


Written by Kellene Ricks Adams