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Student Spotlight

Business for Good

Keren Raz ’10 is using law to build bridges between the worlds of profits and social philanthropy.

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As early as junior high, Keren Raz ’10 was devoting time to nonprofit work, trying to empower young people through education. But she came to recognize that volunteering alone wasn’t enough to make a real dent in society’s most intractable problems, a realization that eventually grew into an interest in social entrepreneurship, or the practice of applying business solutions to social challenges. What’s needed, she says, is to give people “new ways to solve problems when what exists isn’t working.”

Expecting to find a well-beaten path for combining law and social enterprise when she arrived at NYU School of Law, Raz instead received blank stares whenever she mentioned “law” and “social entrepreneurship” together. Some asked why she wasn’t getting an MBA or public policy degree. Sensing an unfilled niche, Raz, who was also a Root-Tilden-Kern Jacobson Public Service Scholar, began talking to other students. “A large number felt they were in between the traditional firm world and the traditional public interest world,” she says, “and they wanted to be able to do both.”

So in 2008 she co-founded the Law and Social Entrepreneurship Association (LSEA). Now 350 members strong, the organization ref lects Raz’s interest in bridging disciplines. A recent symposium on social-enterprise solutions for rebuilding Haiti marked one of the first times that the School of Law, the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and the Stern School of Business had collaborated on an event. A lecture series, Inside the Social Entrepreneurs Studio, brings innovators to campus on a regular basis. “People are looking to NYU Law as one of the future leaders of law and social enterprise,” Raz says.

As an NYU Reynolds Graduate Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship, Raz researched hybrid entrepreneurial models that straddle the for-profit and non-profit worlds to solve pressing social problems in innovative ways. (On the side, she’s helped friends engaged in projects as varied as fighting corruption and crime in Mexico and creating a hip-hop education center.) Post-J.D., she’s now at the Law School on another fellowship, working on a corporate governance project with Professor Helen Scott.

“The LSEA tapped into a clear, strong river of interest among law students,” says Scott, co-director of the Jacobson Leadership Program in Law and Business, who has worked closely with Raz in developing a social entrepreneurship curriculum. “I think we are going to be the first major law school to have a real curricular focus for people interested in social enterprise from the law school side. Keren has been instrumental in moving that forward. She’s a visionary, but she combines that with a real down-to-earth sense of how you get it done.”

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