Leading Social Enterprise - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Leading Social Enterprise

Course Number 1505

Professor Herman B. "Dutch" Leonard
Fall; Q1; 1.5 credits
14 Sessions


This course examines how to create, develop and scale the impact of high-performing social enterprises - be they nonprofit, for-profit, or hybrid organizations. Unlike the business world where most stakeholders agree on the definition of success and are driven by market forces, managers of social enterprises must have the ability to navigate multiple and often conflicting goals, fragmented capital markets and diverse funding sources, and complex challenges of defining and measuring performance. Disciplined, strategic management and leadership are critical. Students will focus on the skills necessary for building organizations (and, sometimes, reshaping the ecosystems they inhabit) so as to address societal problems and seize social opportunities more effectively.

Course Content and Organization

LSE is organized around three core themes. Students will explore how to:

a) Create a mission and strategy that align a theory of social change with a sustainable business model that provides the requisite resources;
b) Develop performance management systems to measure social returns for society and guide strategic decision-making; and
c) Scale impact through alternative strategies including growth, collaboration, and policy influence.

In addition to these core themes, the course touches on the nature of capital and funding markets and on governance issues, examining leadership and management challenges from the perspective of investors, grantmakers, and board members. LSE draws on cases from diverse industries - such as health, education, environment, youth services, and poverty alleviation - as a basis for identifying general management lessons that cut across industries.

The course will include conversations with social sector leaders at various stages of their careers, from startup social entrepreneurs to leaders of established nonprofit organizations. These conversations offer an opportunity to explore emerging issues, discuss career paths, and anticipate future directions.

Target Audience

LSE emphasizes the use of diverse knowledge for addressing complex social problems. The course is designed to bring together students with a range of expertise and experience - from aspiring general managers, entrepreneurs, or investors with no prior experience in the social sector to those with substantial background in fields such as education, health, global development, or public policy. Prior experience in the social sector is not required -- only a commitment to explore the critically important and durably difficult challenges faced by organizations driving social progress. LSE will accept a limited number of cross-registrants in order to enrich the collective knowledge base and experience in the classroom.

This course is part of a portfolio of courses relevant to Social Enterprise. For a full listing, see the Social Enterprise Initiative website.