Social Entrepreneurship: The Best Schools & Programs

5) Harvard Business School.

Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School

Harvard has what it calls a “Social Enterprise Initiative” that was formed in 1993 by former Dean John McArthur with the initial support of alum John C. Whitehead, whose career has spanned leadership positions in the private, for–profit, and nonprofit sectors.

Since the Initiative’s founding, its approach to social enterprise has encompassed the contributions any individual or organization can make toward social improvement, regardless of its legal form (nonprofit, private, or public sector).

Over the years, research forums and conferences sponsored by the Social Enterprise Initiative have examined a wide range of topics, including Nonprofit Strategy, Business Leadership in the Social Sector, Consumer-Driven Health Care, Global Poverty, Public Education, and The Future of Social Enterprise. Research generated from these forums and conferences has been published in special editions of leading academic journals, books, and other publications.

HBS says that more than 95 faculty members at the school have participated in social enterprise research and teaching. They’ve created over 400 social enterprise cases and teaching notes. Social enterprise perspectives are integrated into a broad range of classes and case discussions, reflecting a real-world blending of business and social issues, and courses focusing on social enterprise are incorporated into the curriculum.

Harvard’s course catalog contains 20 electives that either have a “central focus on social enterprise” or are “social enterprise related courses.” There’s “Learning and Governing High Performing Non-Profit Organizations” which offers an in-depth exploration of how to create, build and sustain a non-profit. The course explores what for-profit skills can be effectively transferred to the non-profit world and what ideas and frameworks can’t be used. Another popular course, “Business At the Base of the Pyramid,” was launched in 2006 after Harvard hosted a Global Poverty Conference a year earlier. From 2006 to 2009, Harvard professors developed nearly 20 new case studies to support the course alone. In 2009, the course expanded into two section with 162 students enrolled. Last year, in 2010, the course was expanded to three sections over two terms.

Each year for the past 14 years, Harvard has hosted a major business plan contest and for the past ten years that campus challenge has had a social venture component. In 2010, 27 teams of students competed against each other in pitching plans to create social value via non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid models (there were 83 teams in the more typical business plan competition). The top social venture team in 2010 was Urban Water Partners (UWP). Comprising a trio of Harvard first-year MBA students and a pair of medical students from the University of Utah, the team’s idea was to lease filters to water vendors in the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam to markedly improve access to clean drinking water for the city’s population of some 3 million people.

Harvard also offers what it calls an immersion experience program to MBAs that brings together first- and second-year students for five to 12 day projects off campus. In 2011, social enterprise will be the focus of these experiential learning projects in New Orleans, Rwanda, India, and Haiti, and several other business-type projects will incorporate social enterprise components.

For a complete listing of Harvard’s courses in social entrepreneurship, go here:

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