Spotlight: Kai Hockerts

Kai Hockerts

What drives you?

I always knew I wanted to solve social problems. I want to empower more people to understand what social entrepreneurship is so that more of them consider it a path and try it out. Those who do I want to enable to do it more successfully. It’s important to me to change their view from ‘I’m not Yunus, not a Nobel Peace Prize winner’ to ‘I can, and I will do it.’ I want awareness to lead to activities.

Biggest SocEnt trend you have seen in the last 5 years?

This year the government introduced a registration mark for social entrepreneurs. As a consequence, public institutions have started showing an interest, which in turn has lead other social economy institutions to use “social economic enterprise” – the Danish term for social Enterprise. More and more organizations jump on board with the concept, but we haven’t really agreed on a definition.


After pursuing his graduate studies in Germany, Kai got his Ph.D. in Management at the University of St Gallen before joining INSEAD Business School as Adjunct and Copenhagen Business School as Professor in Social Entrepreneurship. Among other positions he has worked as a consultant for environmental sustainability and as research assistant in Germany and the UK. Kai’s research in the field has focused on the intentions and behaviors of social entrepreneurs. Follow his blog to learn more.




Copenhagen Business School

In June 2015, I was in Copenhagen for the Global Business Ethics Symposium. While in town, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to talk to Kai Hockerts at Copenhagen Business School. Denmark, and Scandinavian countries in general, have a strong reputation when it comes to corporate sustainability and, increasingly, social entrepreneurship. I had met Kai at the 2014 Academy of Management Annual Conference, had audited their MOOC on social entrepreneurship, and was eager to learn more about Kai’s work in Copenhagen.

For an hour and a half we sat in this office and I peppered him with questions about the MOOC and course offering for students at CBS. We started off on the topic of effective social enterprise support: “What we need most at the moment is a pool of managers that bring the experience and skills needed to run social enterprises. We have many people in the social sector but they often lack the entrepreneurial skills to run a business. As a founder, you are accountable to your team, beneficiaries/customers, and investors. A good support program should focus on the personal leadership more so than on technical skills to enable the entrepreneur to deal with this responsibility.”

Entrance to Copenhagen Business School

Entrance to Copenhagen Business School

At Copenhagen Business School, any student – even the ones on exchange from abroad – can take electives in social entrepreneurship. They currently teach one elective to undergraduate students and three to graduate students. “A semester would typically cover an introduction to social entrepreneurship before we dive into case-based discussions around identifying an opportunity, launching and growing the business, and assessing social impact. Our studio with its breakout rooms give students a great space to brainstorm, work on their projects and prototype. Another format we are offering is our one-day innovation camp where businesses (e.g., Novartis), foundations (e.g. Mary Foundation) or nonprofits (e.g. Impact Hub) present a social innovation challenge for students to develop solutions for.”

As far as the MOOC goes, Kai says: ”We have run it twice now and have learned a lot in the process. It is a challenge to keep people engaged for 12 weeks at a time. That said, I have been really impressed with the ones who stuck to it and really used it as a blueprint for turning their ideas for social enterprises into reality.”  

For Kai, one of the most intriguing questions revolves around increasing interest and capacities for aspiring social entrepreneurs: “I wonder if we attract students who have an interest in social entrepreneurship in particular, or if more students start social enterprises because they have taken one of the courses. There has certainly been a growing interest in the field in the student body.” And sure enough, one of the teams that started out at CBS is Ruby Cup, a social business that provides menstrual cups to young women in Africa through a buy-one-give-one approach in Western markets.