Social Enterprise

Social Enterprise is a featured research topic and an initiative at Harvard Business School.

HBS pioneered the concept of “social enterprise” with the founding of its Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) in 1993. Under the early leadership of James Austin on the importance of collaborative relationships to the success of nonprofits and Allen Grossman and V. Kasturi “Kash” Rangan on new directions in nonprofit strategy, we adopted a problem-focused approach toward understanding the challenges associated with driving sustained, high-impact social change. Current research focuses on leadership of socially mission-driven organizations; the role of business leaders and corporate citizenship in driving social change; business models that address poverty; management of high-performing K-12 public school districts; and financing models for the non-profit sector.

  1. Magic Bus: From Childhood to Livelihood

    V. Kasturi Rangan, Vikram Gandhi, Anjali Raina and Rachna Chawla

    Founded in 1999, by Matthew Spacie to give poor children an opportunity to play, Magic Bus had evolved to a leading social enterprise engaged in sports for development, holistic childhood development, and livelihood training for youth between the ages of 6 to 18. By 2017, there were 400,000 children in its various programs. The organization had been through three phases of growth. The case poses the question what the fourth phase should look like.

    Keywords: nonprofit management; social entrepreneurship; Development; growth and scaling; Social Entrepreneurship; Growth and Development Strategy; Nonprofit Organizations; Management;


    Rangan, V. Kasturi, Vikram Gandhi, Anjali Raina, and Rachna Chawla. "Magic Bus: From Childhood to Livelihood." Harvard Business School Case 518-005, July 2017. View Details
  2. Dasra: Growing Venture Philanthropy in India

    V. Kasturi Rangan and Tanya Bijlani

    Dasra, a pioneer in the Indian Strategic Philanthropy space founded by a husband and wife team, had grown and evolved with the fast changing philanthropy scene in India. By 2017 it had managed to raise nearly $100 million of new capital for NGOs and Nonprofits in India. At the same time, the rapid growth demanded internal changes that stretched the organization and raised questions regarding structures, systems and capabilities.

    Keywords: philanthropy; impact investing; corporate social responsibility; social sector; Giving and Philanthropy; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Social Entrepreneurship; India;


    Rangan, V. Kasturi, and Tanya Bijlani. "Dasra: Growing Venture Philanthropy in India." Harvard Business School Case 518-016, July 2017. View Details
  3. Guillermo Jaime—An Endeavor Entrepreneur

    Lynda M. Applegate, Sarah Mehta and Aldo Sesia

    Guillermo Jaime was the founder and CEO of Mejoramiento Integral Asistido (MIA), a for-profit company providing affordable housing to low-income Mexicans living at the base of the pyramid (BOP). This case tells the story of Jaime and Endeavor, a non-profit dedicated to leading the high impact entrepreneurship movement as a tool for economic development in countries around the world. In 2010, Jaime was named an Endeavor Entrepreneur. This case can accompany HBS Case Study “MIA: Profit at the Base of the Pyramid,” No. 817-073.

    Keywords: base of the pyramid; social capitalism; social entrepreneurship; Housing; Emerging Markets; Social Enterprise; Society; Wealth and Poverty; Social Entrepreneurship; Construction Industry; Mexico;


    Applegate, Lynda M., Sarah Mehta, and Aldo Sesia. "Guillermo Jaime—An Endeavor Entrepreneur." Harvard Business School Case 817-084, June 2017. View Details
  4. MIA: Profit at the Base of the Pyramid

    Lynda M. Applegate, José Antonio Dávila Castilla, Sarah Mehta and Aldo Sesia

    In January 2016, Guillermo Jaime had just returned home to Mexico City after attending a Harvard Business School executive education program. Jaime was the founder and CEO of Mejoramiento Integral Asistido (MIA), a company providing affordable housing to low-income Mexicans living at the base of the pyramid (BOP), defined as those living on less than $10 per day. Since its launch in 2009, MIA had built nearly 25,000 homes—which provided safe shelter to more than 100,000 Mexicans—while generating an earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) margin of over 8%.
    At the executive education program, Jaime had learned that entrepreneurs could build on their unique attributes and capabilities to expand and grow their businesses. Should he continue to expand the services MIA offered to BOP customers? Could he leverage what made MIA unique—offering affordable homes for its BOP customers in Mexico—to fulfill other critical needs at the BOP for water, clean energy, and health care services? Jaime was an expert in housing, but could he translate that expertise to such diverse sectors? If so, how should he begin?

    Keywords: base of the pyramid; social capitalism; social entrepreneurship; Housing; Emerging Markets; Social Enterprise; Society; Wealth and Poverty; Social Entrepreneurship; Construction Industry; Mexico;


    Applegate, Lynda M., José Antonio Dávila Castilla, Sarah Mehta, and Aldo Sesia. "MIA: Profit at the Base of the Pyramid." Harvard Business School Case 817-073, June 2017. View Details
  5. Vicki Fuller: Chief Investment Officer of New York State's $150+ Billion Employee Pension Fund

    Steven Rogers and Valerie Mosley

    Fuller traveled from a four-room tenement bordering Chicago’s infamous Cabrini-Green Housing projects to speaking at conferences around the world and typically holding court wherever she went. As a teenager, she helped raise her siblings. As a Wall Street executive, she navigated the investment management world to generate attractive investment results for clients. And as the Chief Investment Officer of New York State Employees’ Common Retirement Fund (CRF), she helped manage the third largest state pension fund in the United States. Fuller’s 5’2” height understated her reputational stature, as audiences where she was featured anxiously awaited hearing her market outlook, innovative investment allocations and industry insights for effective state pension fund strategies.

    Keywords: Change Management; Transformation; Public Sector; Investment Return; Investment Portfolio; Governance; Government Administration; Employee Relationship Management; Compensation and Benefits; Selection and Staffing; Leading Change; Mission and Purpose; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Experience and Expertise; Asset Management; Financial Strategy; Financial Management; Investment Funds; Recruitment; Organizational Culture; Performance Improvement; Attitudes; Trust; Financial Services Industry; Public Administration Industry; United States; New York (state, US); New York (city, NY);


    Rogers, Steven, and Valerie Mosley. "Vicki Fuller: Chief Investment Officer of New York State's $150+ Billion Employee Pension Fund." Harvard Business School Case 317-044, May 2017. View Details
  6. Stock Price Synchronicity and Material Sustainability Information

    Jody Grewal, Clarissa Hauptmann and George Serafeim

    We examine if, and under what conditions, disclosure of sustainability information identified as investor relevant by market-driven innovations in accounting standard setting is associated with stock prices reflecting more firm-specific information and thereby lower synchronicity with market and industry returns. We find that firms voluntarily disclosing more sustainability information, identified as material by the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), have lower stock price synchronicity. This result is stronger for firms with higher exposure to sustainability issues, institutional and socially responsible investment fund ownership, and coverage from analysts with less firm-specific experience and lower portfolio complexity. Moreover, we find intra-industry information transfers to firms with low sustainability disclosure within industries with high sustainability disclosure. We also document that sustainability information not identified by the accounting standard setting process is not associated with stock price synchronicity.

    Keywords: sustainability; sustainability reporting; corporate accountability; corporate social responsibility; corporate governance; asset pricing; stock price; information; Voluntary Disclosure; accounting; accounting standards; Environmental Sustainability; Corporate Disclosure; Corporate Accountability; Stocks; Price; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Accounting; Standards;


    Grewal, Jody, Clarissa Hauptmann, and George Serafeim. "Stock Price Synchronicity and Material Sustainability Information." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 17-098, May 2017. View Details
  7. Cotopaxi: Managing Growth for Good

    Andy Wu and Laura Huang

    Cotopaxi, an innovative outdoor gear business targeting millennials, focuses on profit and social impact. This registered benefit corporation was formed by Davis Smith who coalesced his experiences as a Wharton MBA student along with professional knowledge from an unpaid internship in Peru and his previous e-commerce startups in the U.S. and Brazil. Cotopaxi’s social cause is fighting global poverty; their target is to donate 10% of their profits, but as a new capital-intensive business they give 2% of their revenue. Their income streams are mainly direct-to-consumer sales along with corporate sales and a special experience-based event—Questival. Their direct-to-consumer model lowers costs compared to competitors and allows Cotopaxi to offer lower prices, but they face a challenge in positioning their products as high quality.

    Keywords: entrepreneurship; social venture; benefit corporation; B-Corp; retail; consumer products; Apparel; social impact; Social Entrepreneurship; Business Model; Product Positioning; Social Enterprise; Mission and Purpose; Consumer Products Industry; Retail Industry;


    Wu, Andy, and Laura Huang. "Cotopaxi: Managing Growth for Good." Harvard Business School Case 717-488, May 2017. View Details
  8. Making Target the Target: Boycotts and Corporate Political Activity

    Nien-he Hsieh and Victor Wu

    Through the challenges facing Target, the case examines the ways in which corporations can become involved in political and legislative debates and processes, ranging from campaign contributions to lobbying. In 2016, Target CEO Brian Cornell must determine how to respond to the debate over North Carolina's recently signed law, commonly known as "HB2," that invalidated LGBT non-discrimination ordinances at the local level. In contrast to other organizations, Target did not threaten to leave the state. However, its public statement in support of LGBT rights prompted a boycott against its stores. Adding to the difficulty was the fact that Target was caught on the other side of the debate in 2010 in one of the earliest high-profile controversies resulting from the Citizens United ruling. Target had contributed to a SuperPAC supporting business-friendly candidates. As one of the candidate's opposition to same-sex marriage became well publicized, Target faced a consumer boycott as well as a shareholder proposal to change its policies on political contributions. The case covers current campaign finance regulations as they relate to business as well as Target's lobbying activities regarding online sales tax legislation.

    Keywords: boycott; corporate accountability; corporate political activity; lobbying; LGBTQ; campaign contributions; campaign finance; retail; shareholder activism; Public Opinion; Social Issues; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Mission and Purpose; Problems and Challenges; Laws and Statutes; Rights; Crisis Management; Risk Management; Media; Political Elections; Taxation; Corporate Accountability; Values and Beliefs; Fairness; Diversity; Customers; Communication; Business and Government Relations; Retail Industry; United States;


    Hsieh, Nien-he, and Victor Wu. "Making Target the Target: Boycotts and Corporate Political Activity." Harvard Business School Case 317-113, April 2017. (Revised June 2017.) View Details
  9. The Responsibilities and Role of Business in Relation to Society: Back to Basics?

    Nien-he Hsieh

    2016 Society for Business Ethics Presidential Address
    Abstract: In this address, I outline a “back to basics” approach to specifying the responsibilities and role of business in relation to society. Three “basics” comprise the approach. The first is arguing that basic principles of ordinary morality, such as a duty not to harm, provide an adequate basis for specifying the responsibilities of business managers. The second is framing the role of business in society by looking to the values realized by the basic building blocks of contemporary economic activity, i.e., markets and firms. The third is making explicit the basic institutions that structure the background against which business operates. The aim is to develop a plausible framework for managerial decision making that respects the fact of value pluralism in a global economy and that fosters meaningful criticism of current business practices while remaining sufficiently grounded in contemporary circumstances so as to be relevant for managers.

    Keywords: business and society; corporate responsibility; harm; human rights; institutions; Pareto efficiency; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Moral Sensibility; Society; Rights;


    Hsieh, Nien-he. "The Responsibilities and Role of Business in Relation to Society: Back to Basics?" Business Ethics Quarterly 27, no. 2 (April 2017): 293–314. View Details
  10. SKS Microfinance (Abridged)

    Shawn Cole and Theresa Chen

    Vikram Akula, CEO of SKS Microfinance, seeks a venture capital investment to fund his firm. SKS, one of the largest and fastest growing microfinance institutions in India, is a profitable, for-profit institution with a social mission. In what is one of the first commercial financing deals in the world, Akula must decide at what value to sell equity in SKS, and to whom to sell it. The case focuses on valuation, which is difficult because at the time there are no publicly traded comparable companies, and the strategic aspects of raising money.

    Keywords: For-Profit Firms; Venture Capital; Microfinance; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Valuation; Financial Services Industry; India;


    Cole, Shawn, and Theresa Chen. "SKS Microfinance (Abridged)." Harvard Business School Case 217-069, March 2017. View Details
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