HEC-ULg sets itself as a pioneer among French-language Belgian universities by proposing, from the 2010-2011 university year onward, a special orientation on the "Management of social enterprises" within its Master programme in Management Sciences.
Social enterprises are an innovating form of enterprises, which aim to reconcile economic, social and environmental goals. While seeking efficiency, they give priority to the societal goals they pursue. These organisations are active in highly varied fields, such as fair trade, ethical and solidarity-based finance, waste recycling, green energy production, personal services, work-integration and training, cultural creation, development cooperation, humanitarian aid, etc.
Beside these "alternative" enterprises, an increasing number of so-called "mainstream" enterprises also wish to integrate criteria other than purely economic in their daily management. Combining economic, social and ecological goals has become a major stake, and a goal that "social entrepreneurship" initiatives have began to pursue. Social entrepreneurship aims to mobilise individual competences and skills within a project with a societal responsibility dimension.
The interest raised by social entrepreneurship corresponds to deep trends in our societies:
- Citizens' perceptions: The excesses of an economy aiming at short-term profit-maximisation at all costs brings an increasing number of persons to question the legitimacy of such logics and to reflect on the possibilities to combine economic dynamism and societal challenges in another way;
- Evolution in enterprises' behaviour: In such a context, an increasing number of enterprises want to commit themselves to sustainable development and implement corporate social responsibility (CRS) practices;
- Consumers' expectations: Consumers choose, with increasing frequency, products and services with an ethical, social or environmental dimension;
- Students' aspirations: Many young people want to "work differently" and take this into account when reflecting on their education and future work. The need to feel useful to others or to society, the desire to place certain personal values high on the agenda, the discovery of the economic relevance of organisations hitherto considered as purely "social" are all factors that tend to shape a new generation of students, who want to combine "competences and meaning".
Given the growing interest for social entrepreneurship and the increasing economic importance of social enterprises (which represent nearly 10% of salaried employment in Belgium and register an employment growth rate 2.5 times higher than the rest of the economy), it appears justified to study this innovating economic trend in management schools and to provide some students with tools to work within - or in relation with - this entrepreneurial dynamic.
Most management schools abroad (Harvard Business School, Oxford-Saïd Business School, Cambridge-Judge Business School, Duke-Fuqua School of Business, HEC-Paris, ESSEC-Paris) now offer training programmes on the management of social enterprises. HEC-ULg is currently the only management school in Belgium to offer its students this type of programme.
The special orientation on the "Management of social enterprises" gives students:
- an analysis and management capacity: being able to manage the major functions of an enterprise, understanding the various forms of economic organisations and their roles and specificity, analysing and anticipating societal challenges;
- operational tools: knowing the (economic, political, legal) environment in which enterprises operate (be it at the regional, national or European level), learning managerial practices of social entrepreneurship, mastering the tools designed to take into account social and environmental concerns;
- a relational network: meeting the main actors of social entrepreneurship in Belgium, networking with similar experiences in Europe and elsewhere;
- an intensive pedagogical guidance, focused on the gradual development of the student's autonomy.