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09 Apr. 2015 | Comments (0)

E4impact, an initiative of Alta Scuola Impresa e Societá (ALTIS - Graduate School of Business and Society) at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Italy, aims to develop high-impact entrepreneurs in Africa. The heart of the program is the MBA in Impact Entrepreneurship, a year-long executive degree program designed to grow and scale participants’ businesses. Its long-term goal is to develop a new generation of entrepreneurs capable of combining economic success with positive social impact.

Bradley Googins, who formerly ran the distinguished Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, is working with the E4impact’s architects at ALTIS. He explains more in the questions below.

Q: Can you give us an overview of E4impact, including the countries currently involved?

A: E4Impact Africa focuses on developing impact entrepreneurs throughout Africa by partnering with African universities. The program has two goals:

  • Educating the next generation of African entrepreneurs, and
  • Building the capacity of young African universities in entrepreneurship.

Between 35 and 40 students are enrolled in the year-long E4Impact Executive MBA program, which employs a 50-50 classroom-distance learning model to teach students how to build their business into scalable and sustainable enterprises. Each student has access to a full-time business coach along with mentors to meld their MBA classes with their business. Half the faculty are from Africa, and half from European and American Universities. The E4Impact program creates a self-sustaining model within three years by which the local university assumes full responsibility.

Currently, E4Impact is fully funded and operational in four countries—Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast—and in development in six others. These ten participating countries are designing an alliance for launch in 2015 to ensure a learning community and to achieve an economy of scale in key areas.

Q: How do you teach students to improve the social impact of their enterprises?

A: E4Impact teaches students the “Business Model Canvas,” a widely used strategic management and lean startup template that focuses on value proposition, customers, revenues and expenses, among other business elements. We add two components to this model—social costs and social benefits—to focus on social impact. In addition, courses in ethics, along with regular seminars by noted social entrepreneurs reinforce the social aspects and focus on impact as much as entrepreneurship.

It is important to note that E4Impact has a primary focus on revenue-producing enterprises that address social and environmental issues in society. While the majority of students are in the for-profit arena, there are many who are developing not-for-profit enterprises as well. In either case, the emphasis of the program is on creating revenue and developing a viable business model that can compete with a unique value proposition and deliver value to customers and end users.

Q: Why is nurturing social entrepreneurship so important to Africa?

A: Africa has historically lagged behind much of the globe in terms of globalization and development. However, recently the continent is experiencing rapid growth and it is expected to be one of the fastest growing areas of the globe over the next decade. Many of the negative effects of the colonial model, and more recently the donor model, are offset by entrepreneurship, which offers a timely empowerment model that will accelerate Africa’s growth, create and scale up business, and generate jobs.

A fine line exists between entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship in Africa and other developing countries. Virtually all enterprises that are developed focus on basic social issues in African society, such as food, community and economic development and health care, among others. Consequently, E4Impact is an intense 12-month program of core entrepreneurship and business competencies to promote the sustainability and viability of students’ businesses. The social dimensions of the program are built into the overall mission and focus on impact and the addition to the business model of social costs and benefits. It is this linking of strong entrepreneurship and business competencies, with an emphasis on social impact that distinguishes E4Impact Africa from more traditional MBA and Entrepreneurship programs.

Q: How are you helping to build capacity among local institutions to extend this program?

A: E4Impact creates a strong partnership and close working relationship between the sponsoring college and university. We devote considerable resources to our goal of having the African university fully invested, competent and able to sustain this program after the first three years of intense work by the E4Impact faculty and staff. That means ALTIS and the university working together in the first three years to develop and strengthen all systems essential for the program—from recruitment, faculty training, budgeting and finance, collecting tuitions, and branding and marketing.

  • About the Author:Bradley Googins

    Bradley Googins

    Bradley K. Googins, a Professor in Organizational Studies(Ret) at the Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. was  the Executive Director of the Boston College Center for Corporate C…

    Full Bio | More from Bradley Googins

  • About the Author:Alex Parkinson

    Alex Parkinson

    Alex Parkinson is Principal of Parky Communications, a communications agency specializing in sustainability and CSR reporting and communications. He serves as the Co-Leader of The Conference Board Cor…

    Full Bio | More from Alex Parkinson


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