An Idea for Generating Business-Related MSW Internship Opportunities

I attended a presentation, in a school of social work (SSW), by a business school student who is involved in setting up a venture capital fund for purposes of social entrepreneurship.  He said that his B-school hoped that his enterprise would create internship opportunities for other MBA students.

It seemed to me that his presentation and his enterprise might have implications for MSW internships as well.  There is apparently quite a shortage of such internships – in some places more than others, I suppose.  As I thought about it, it seemed that there might be some ways in which B-school students could develop, market, and administer MSW-type internships within the SSW, especially but perhaps not only for MSW students who have an interest in administration, finance, and other business-related areas.

In other words, there seemed to be some opportunities for social work students to play useful roles in support of his organization and, in exchange, to obtain exposure to social enterprises specifically and to business concepts in general.  Those opportunities did not seem to be ripe for the picking; they would take some development.  But this was not necessarily a drawback.  It seemed to me that the work of bridging that gap provided, in itself, an opportunity to create additional MBA-type internships.

Having written up the concept, I have decided to post it here in case people in other MSW programs find some aspects of it relevant to their own needs.  That writeup follows.

* * * * *

Dear [MBA Student]:

There are MBAs who are interested in human resources.  You seemed to be sketching out one or more human resources problems and/or opportunities.  My suggestion is a response to that.

A number of MSW students are interested in approximately the kind of undertaking you described to us.  Unfortunately, most of us have little exposure to or knowledge in the predominantly business-oriented approach you take to the matter.  In that sense, we resemble the volunteers, groupies, and fan clubs that many for-profit and not-for-profit organizations variously suppress, ignore, or encourage.

Coincidentally, the SSW seems to be in a position where it would welcome additional internship placement opportunities for its students.  In other words, I suspect the SSW’s field placement office would be receptive, in principle, if your organization proved capable of generating additional placement opportunities related to social enterprise.

Depending upon the imagination and resources of the hypothetical HR-oriented MBA intern(s), these MSW internships opportunities could take a variety of forms.  One example would be an internationally oriented internship for an MSW student who wished to spend, say, a summer gaining a firsthand understanding of the circumstances underlying an African enterprise in which your fund was contemplating an investment, so as to complement your own research into that enterprise.

As another example, an internship in Michigan or perhaps in D.C. might expose the intern to policymaking deliberations predominantly on the governmental side.  Yet another internship might bring the MSW student in-house – into the business school, that is – to get firsthand exposure to the number-crunching and analysis taking place in your shop.  There may eventually be space for an advocacy-oriented MSW internship, in which e.g., someone who has survived the first round (e.g., a first-year internship) with you may now be positioned to serve as an extension of your HR MBA within the SSW, for purposes of meeting with faculty and otherwise developing collaborative opportunities and promoting business-oriented approaches to social enterprise.

MSW internships require supervision by field instructors who are, themselves, MSWs.  If you happened to have an MBA intern who was especially interested in the executive recruiting field, this could be a good opportunity for a warm-up, by way of exposing that student to the challenges of bringing the various egos into a cooperative stance.  It might develop, for example, that the possibility of being introduced to certain influential and/or moneyed individuals would provide a sufficient quid pro quo to encourage some SSW faculty members to provide the essential supervision of the MSW students thus occupied.  Brief experience suggests that one hour per week, conducted in the setting of a group meeting, may count as sufficient intern supervision for these purposes.

The SSW is presumably not the only part of the university community that would be interested in nibbling on some crumbs from your table, properly marketed [sic].  I would guess that the MBA-MSW collaboration model could draw upon your prior collaborative experience with the law school and could be developed more broadly.  For instance, at the least, the MSW internships I mention might also be open to students from other programs (e.g., public administration).  There may also be additional leveraging opportunities in connection with some such programs.  For instance, subject to financially oriented oversight and/or other liaison services provided by some MBA student, a student from an MPA or educational administration program might appreciate an opportunity to be involved with the development and implementation of that interdepartmental collaboration model.  Pulling these various threads together, with suitable accountability, would also probably call for an MBA internship of an administrative nature.

In short, giving social work students an opportunity to work in and learn about the business side of social entrepreneurship is, in itself, a social enterprise.  The step of creating one MBA internship position, for a student interested in developing that enterprise, could culminate in the creation of a number of derivative MBA and MSW internship openings.

* * * * *

That’s the gist of the idea.  If anyone finds it helpful, please post a comment below.  Thanks!

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