Contributing to the social transformation from social entrepreneurship

On Wednesday the 21st of June, my first doctoral student (already a PhD) Nerea Sáenz defended the thesis entitled: La formación en emprendimiento social en la educación superior: competencias, metodologías de enseñanza-aprendizaje e instrumentos de evaluación. Estudio de casos en dos universidades europeas. (Training in social entrepreneurship in higher education: competencies, teaching and learning methodologies and assessment tools. Study of the cases in two European universities).

Today not only I present you some of the main ideas of the thesis, but also her author, of whom I feel so proud. Why would it be?

I remember some years ago when Nerea proposed me as co-director of her doctoral thesis together with my colleague Dr. Ana Luisa López. For me, being able to direct a thesis about social entrepreneurship was, then, a compliment, an honor and a challenge. Not in vain was this the first thesis that I was directing and I admit that being up to the task was a little bit scary for me.

The truth is that hearing the outstanding grade from Dr. Aurelio Villa was a relief, because that meant, on the one hand, a deserved recognition to Nerea’s work, which has been excellent, and on the other hand, a way of telling us the co-directors that we have fulfilled what was expected. Although if I tell you the truth, the main point for me is that Nerea felt well accompanied during these years.

I have to admit that I had a co-director who made things easy for me (I think we have complemented each other very well) and a doctoral student who has worked a lot and with great strictness during all this process. She was always alert for the latest publications, it seemed that the moment to pass to the following level was never coming. But you made it.

I met Nerea as a student of Psychology at the University of Deusto, in the moment she decided to join and be an active part of the first generation of the entrepreneurship program  Ingenio that I had the pleasure to coordinate. At that time, she was a brilliant student and was able to enjoy a stay in Argentina to learn a bit more about entrepreneurship and develop some of the competences of an E.P.  (courage, perseverance, initiative, compromise, adaptability and motivation, for example). That was the beginning of her entrepreneurial adventure that ended last Wednesday with the defense of her thesis.

Personally, I think the thesis is a contribution more than important to a field that has been gaining more and more strength in the last years. With it, Nerea offers us:

  • on the one hand, a deep literature review about social entrepreneurship, its definition, challenges and lines of action, the training of the entreprener and the education for entrepreneurship;
  •  on the other hand, the proposal of a training model for competences of social entrepreneurship, a methodological proposal of teaching and learning and some assessment tools of those competences. A model that, in addition, enrichens with the study of two cases of social entrepreneurship in European universities.

In the elaboration process of this thesis, Nerea has worked in a continuous way day by day, always with an open mind and very responsive. Her attitude has always been the one of a committed person, not only with a job but with a topic like social entrepreneurship that, I insist, is of big relevance, above all, in a field like training and education.

As Nerea reflects in her thesis, Bill Drayton, founder and president of Ashoka, was the first person to coin the term “social entrepreneur” in 1972. According to him, social entrepreneurs have the vision, perseverance and commitment to generate a creative and innovative idea with the aim of provoking an impact in society, by using management tools that allow them to respond to social problems and business challenges. Today, that meaning has not changed much, although the emphasis is on the typology of problems (social and environmental) that social entrepreneurs (agents of change, leaders, initiative, creative, innovative, with capacity to take risks and identifying opportunities, and capable of creating sustainable value) have to solve, insisting on the need to create new challenges and opportunities with the main objective of impacting people’s lives. Of course, social entrepreneurs act fundamentally for ethical principles and social values (over the economic benefit and individual interest), in order to achieve transformation and change for social justice.

Nerea’s thesis highlights the need to connect social entrepreneurship with higher education. Hence, in chapter 2 she looks at this aspect in greater depth, she takes a tour of the main programmes of promotion of social entrepreneurship in Europe and Spain, and concludes with the need to strengthen social entrepreneurship through education and training. After a relevant literature and documentary review, one of the strengths of the thesis is presented: a training model for social entrepreneurship based on competences along with a proposal of teaching and learning methodologies that enhances them and some evaluation instruments that complement them. I particularly recommend the reading and detailed analysis of chapter 6.

Finally, if you want to know in depth two cases in which training for social entrepreneurship is promoted, I encourage you to go directly to chapters 8 and 9. In them you will find the study of two cases, on the one hand, the case of the University of Liege in Belgium, and, on the other, that of ESADE, at the Ramón LLul University in Barcelona.

THANK YOU, Nerea, for letting me be part of this process that, undoubtedly, I have enjoyed and learned.

I hope you keep enjoying.

Translated by María Ubierna Quintanilla and supervised by Arantza Arruti.

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