Field Course: Social Innovation Lab - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Field Course: Social Innovation Lab

Course Number 6582

Professor of Management Practice Allen Grossman
Professor Herman B. "Dutch" Leonard
Winter; Q3; Q4; 3 credits
8 - 10 two-hour class sessions plus field-based project
Enrollment limited to 36

Career Focus

This field seminar is designed for students interested in leading the development of an idea for the launch of a social venture. The course is appropriate for students interested in utilizing creative solutions to address societal issues across a range of for-profit, nonprofit or hybrid organizational structures. This course will be helpful to, but is not limited to, students who plan to enter the Social Venture Track of the HBS Business Plan Contest.

In order to have a productive experience, students (individually or as a team) should enter the course either with a specific idea to pursue or an area of interest with the understanding that by the end of the course, a specific plan will emerge.

Educational Objectives

The course involves team-based project work focused on the development of a business plan for the launch of a social venture, coupled with ongoing faculty advisory support and a series of in-class sessions some of which will include practitioners. Classroom sessions will provide foundational knowledge and approaches, as well as advice and coaching contoured to specific team projects. The learning objectives of the SI-Lab are:

  1. To provide students with a structured field-based opportunity focused on social innovation and entrepreneurship.
  2. To build skills of integrative, multidisciplinary problem solving necessary for management in general and to address societal challenges whether national or global in scope.
  3. To offer students opportunities to leverage their classroom learning and apply concepts to make a difference in the world.

Course Content and Organization

This course will include required classroom sessions throughout the term for all enrolled students that will focus on supporting teams in the development of their social venture. The majority of course time will be focused on team-based project work outside of the classroom. Student teams comprised of two to five students (exceptions to this team size will require permission from the instructors) will explore the feasibility of effectively addressing a social issue and then develop a business plan for a new social venture. Graduate students from across the University or from schools that have cross-registration privileges with Harvard University are encouraged to enroll. It is our strong belief that teams will benefit by having diverse perspectives from students who attend a range of graduate schools.

The SI-Lab will utilize the new Harvard Innovation Lab facility to enable students to work within their project team to support the development of their business plan, pursue program and product prototyping activities, explore cross-cutting topics related to business planning and organizational design, design resource generation strategies, establish performance metrics, and develop plans for scaling. Each team will formally present their plans to the faculty leads and a panel of practitioners at the conclusion of the seminar.

Students should either enter the course with a concrete idea to explore or have a strong sense of the area in which they will focus. Those who have a concrete idea should email a memo outlining their idea, its stage of development, and the names of their team members to Julie Lonergan at jlonergan@hbs.edu prior to the first class for review by the teaching faculty. Others with less well formed ideas of a business model should e-mail a narrative describing the problem they wish to address and some preliminary thinking on how they might proceed in refining the idea into a business plan during the course. The initial class section will provide an opportunity for these students to prospect for affiliation with existing t.eams enrolled in the course.

At least one member of the team must have completed or be enrolled in one of the following courses for the team to be eligible to participate: Business at the Base of the Pyramid, Entrepreneurship in Education Reform, Leading and Governing High Performing Nonprofit Organizations, Creating Shared Value: Entrepreneurial and Corporate Models for a Changing Economy. (If students have taken courses in another school that provided similar content, they may petition the faculty for an exception to this requirement.)