2013 ASEE Annual Conference, Atlanta, Georgia.

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Helping People Living in Poverty? Understanding Factors Motivating Social Entrepreneurship Abstract Increasingly, engineering educators look to increase the social relevance of engineering design activities. The emergence of social businesses has sparked interest in creating programs that teach engineers about social entrepreneurship. Social businesses are viable business ventures where businesses adopt a social mission. Some strategists view social businesses as ways to capture market share in countries that have a large emerging consumer class, such as India and Brazil. These strategists speak of finding “the fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid” and target consumers earning less than 4USD/day. Other strategists view social businesses as direct pathways for poverty alleviation. These strategists contend that businesses focused on meeting people’s needs can create a world without poverty. The purpose of this paper is to ask how engineering education programs teaching social entrepreneurship construct definitions of social entrepreneurship to motivate students.This paper asks the following questions: 1) What do engineering educators define social entrepreneurship? 2) How do emerging social businesses explain the organization’s motivations? 3) How have these definitions and motivations shifted over time?This paper uses multimodal discourse analysis to explore how different business strategies affect engineering education programs teaching social entrepreneurship. Multimodal discourse analysis allows researchers to connect rhetoric used in problem-definition to the real-world business activities of organizations. The researcher selected two distinct engineering education programs teaching social entrepreneurship in the United States to highlight as case studies. Both programs have existed for more than five years, making it possible to explore how discourse within the program has shifted over time.The results of this research can inform student recruitment, program design, and potential organizational partnerships. Preliminary results indicate that engineering programs began by emphasizing high-volume products geared towards meeting basic needs. Later, engineering programs teaching social entrepreneurship began to emphasize capturing market share in emerging consumer markets. Although data analysis is continuing, these engineering programs do not appear to require students to think deeply about the nature of poverty itself.


2013, ASEE, design, entrepreneurship

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