WHAT WE DO:
The Oregon High School Social Entrepreneurship Program expects that, by the end of the year, students will design, launch, and operate a “for-benefit” social enterprise either individually or in small groups.
This, however, is the end of a long journey for students, one that begins with self-discovery and goal-setting, and then examines how to leverage those personal strengths and passions into a value proposition capable of creating both social change and income.
HOW IT WORKS:
In first semester, students begin by articulating their goals and visions in concrete terms, while also exploring personality profiles that clarify their inherent strengths and passions. In the second phase, students discover how their unique qualities and interests can be leveraged to create social and environmental impact. Rather than just asking, “What are you passionate about?” or, “What can you do that makes money?”, their essential question becomes, “How can you make a positive difference – and create income – by doing something you’re passionate about?” Students develop their ideas into a business model and minimum viable product to be pitched to community members at a public showcase in hopes of securing the investment capital needed to launch their businesses.
In second semester, students apply lessons from community experts on branding, website design, marketing, banking, and accounting to their social enterprise prototypes, culminating in a Launch Day “Shark Tank” evaluation by local business leaders. There is no substitute for experience, and so, in fourth quarter, students operate their startup micro-business following “lean” methods: create a hypothesis about your business, create a short experiment to test it, measure the results, and then adapt your business practice. Whether these hypotheses are about marketing, customer segment, price points, or workflow, they are all personalized, experiential, and authentic.
HOW WE’RE DIFFERENT:
Although typical high school entrepreneurship programs like IncubatorEdu and Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities (CEO) offer a similarly experiential, community-embedded curriculum, the Oregon High School Social Entrepreneurship Program differs in two important ways:
Commitment to social change: all of our student-run enterprises operate with a “triple bottom line” – profit, social impact, and environmental sustainability. We believe that the next generation will lead the fourth-sector economy, and we’re continually impressed with how, given the chance, students can use market-driven approaches to solve real-life problems.
Acceleration: we believe that the most important growth happens “in the wild,” in the spontaneous experiences that exist after we make plans – and so we’ve accelerated our program to have students both model their business and practice lean operation methods to give them a truly comprehensive experience.
"For-benefit enterprises – hybrid business structures delivering social and environmental benefit alongside profit – constitute a fourth sector of the economy which has been growing for decades at the intersection of the public, private and non-profit sectors. " -- WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM, Fourth Sector Development Initiative
The Social Entrepreneurship Program at Oregon High School seeks to advance the district mission by combining three distinct elements into a transformative educational experience: 1) the natural creativity of students, 2) the foundational and theoretical knowledge of problem-solving and innovation, and 3) the deep well of resources in the local community. As well as gaining credits for both Consumer Education and English, senior students will spend a year putting their individual ideas into practice for the public good – either by working in the community to solve a problem or by creating a start-up business with a social benefit.
Students will develop professionalism, collaboration, creative and divergent thinking, independence, and self-confidence. Although there will be no “tests” over these qualities, students can expect to be consistently “tested” in each one – every time they present themselves to a community member, make a phone call, compose an email, or implement a solution of their own design.
In a larger sense, the OHS Social Entrepreneurship program connects students to the community, to help them realize that their own ideas can have an impact, and that the best niche for their entrepreneurial vision may not be in New York City or Silicon Valley, but right here at home – a place they already know, a place they can help grow.