“I want to be better at taking risks,” wrote one student. “What better risk to take than investing in human capital?”
“I like the take-action philosophy of this course—genuinely helping people out of poverty with their own power,” commented another.
These are just a couple of comments submitted by the 55 students in a new microventuring certificate program offered through the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. This elective program, which is being offered to graduate and undergraduate students from any college at Notre Dame, is geared toward reducing poverty by helping build sustainable businesses where the greatest needs exist.
Frank Belatti ('69), founder and chairman of AFC Enterprises, first approached the Center with ideas for social entrepreneurship promotion.
“There is a growing realization that microenterprise and social entrepreneurship are becoming more and more necessary,” he said. “It seemed a good idea for Notre Dame to get involved on a more specific level and meet the challenges we face as a global community. Because if not here, where?”
Belatti and Management Professor Jim Davis designed the program and serve as co-instructors. During the first semester, students will learn how social entrepreneurship works. In the second semester, students will gain practical experience by mentoring microenterprises in the South Bend area. For instance, teams of students may write a human resource policy or marketing plan or help a small business improve accounting systems. A third step: summer internships for students with agencies which work with microenterprises either in the United States or abroad.
Through this program, students will “come face to face with real people and better understand the complexities of their lives with the hope of changing the prospects for success, if not marginally, then dramatically,” said Belatti. “If we do it well enough and long enough, we're going to see changes take place in our [global] community.”
Greg Van Kirk addressed the class in September. A former financial analyst and Peace Corps volunteer, he co-founded CE Solutions, a firm that helps aspiring entrepreneurs in rural Guatemala market their handmade pottery and textiles and build other sustainable local businesses.