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. Alternative Paths of Green Entrepreneurship: The Environmental Legacies of The North Face's Doug Tompkins and Patagonia's Yvon Chouinard

    Geoffrey Jones and Ben Gettinger

    This working paper examines the impact of two entrepreneurs who offered alternative paths to reach their shared goal of a more sustainable world. Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins were respective founders of the prominent outdoor apparel brands Patagonia and The North Face. Chouinard pursued incremental sustainability strategies over decades at his firm. Tompkins, who went on to manage the fashion company Esprit, opted in 1989 to exit business entirely having concluded that capitalism could never be sufficiently sustainable to reverse environmental degradation. He purchased 1.5 million hectares of land in Chile and Argentina that he converted to protected areas and national parks. The Chouinard strategy represented best practice green entrepreneurship, which if widely adopted might markedly reduce the environmental impact of business, but its full execution appeared possible only because Patagonia was a private company. The Tompkins dual strategy of exit from business and application of entrepreneurial skills to conservation resulted in large environmental gains, including sequestering and storing an estimated 80 million tons of carbon. We lack the metrics and methodologies to compare rigorously which offers the better path to sustainability, but a case can be made that the application of entrepreneurial talents to activities beyond for-profit business (of which conservation is one example) might be a more effective strategy.

    Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Entrepreneurship; Environmental Sustainability; Apparel and Accessories Industry;

    Citation:

    Jones, Geoffrey, and Ben Gettinger. "Alternative Paths of Green Entrepreneurship: The Environmental Legacies of The North Face's Doug Tompkins and Patagonia's Yvon Chouinard." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 17-034, October 2016. View Details
  2. Building a Culture of Health: A New Imperative for Business

    John A. Quelch and Emily C. Boudreau

    This ambitious volume sets out to understand how every company impacts public health and introduces a robust model, rooted in organizational and scientific knowledge, for companies committed to making positive contributions to health and wellness. Focusing on four interconnected areas of corporate impact, it not only discusses the business imperative of promoting a healthier society and improved living conditions worldwide, but also provides guidelines for measuring a company’s population health footprint. Examples, statistics, and visuals showcase emerging corporate involvement in public health and underscore the business opportunities available to companies that invest in health.

    Keywords: Social Marketing; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Health;

    Citation:

    Quelch, John A., and Emily C. Boudreau. Building a Culture of Health: A New Imperative for Business. SpringerBriefs in Public Health. Springer, 2016. View Details
  3. The Integrity of Private Third-party Compliance Monitoring

    Jodi L. Short and Michael W. Toffel

    Government agencies are increasingly turning to private, third-party monitors to inspect and assess regulated entities’ compliance with law. The integrity of these regulatory regimes rests on the validity of the information third-party monitors provide to regulators. The challenge in designing third-party monitoring regimes is that profit-driven private monitors, typically selected and paid by the firms subject to monitoring, have incentives to downplay problems they observe in order to satisfy and retain their clients. This paper discusses the most important factors that our research and the research of many others has shown can affect the integrity of third-party monitoring and highlights some policy implications for regulators designing third-party monitoring regimes.

    Keywords: regulation; Compliance; compliance policies; conflict of interest; independent third party; inspection; audit quality; auditor; audit; environment; safety; labor; Safety; Conflict of Interests; Working Conditions; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Governance Compliance; Accounting Audits;

    Citation:

    Short, Jodi L., and Michael W. Toffel. "The Integrity of Private Third-party Compliance Monitoring." Administrative & Regulatory Law News 42, no. 1 (Fall 2016): 22–25. View Details
  4. The Ecosystem of Shared Value

    Mark R. Kramer and Marc W. Pfitzer

    Governments, NGOs, companies, and community members must all be involved in programs to create shared value, yet they work more often in opposition than in alignment. A movement known as collective impact has facilitated successful collaborations in the social sector, and it can guide businesses in bringing together the various actors in their ecosystems to help remedy some of the world's most urgent problems. In the process, companies will find economic opportunities that their competitors miss. Five elements must be in place for a collective-impact effort to achieve its aims: (1) a common agenda, which helps align the players' efforts and defines their commitment; (2) a shared measurement system; (3) mutually reinforcing activities; (4) constant communication, which builds trust and ensures mutual objectives; and (5) dedicated “backbone” support, delivered by a separate, independently funded staff, which builds public will, advances policy, and mobilizes resources.

    Keywords: Social Entrepreneurship; Cooperation;

    Citation:

    Kramer, Mark R., and Marc W. Pfitzer. "The Ecosystem of Shared Value." Harvard Business Review 94, no. 10 (October 2016): 80–89. View Details
  5. Ekal Vidyalaya: Education for Rural India

    David Drake, Namrata Bhattacharya, Pooja Godbole and Amrita Saigal

    By examining Ekal Vidyalaya (Ekal), a nonprofit network of schools in India, this case focuses on the classic challenge faced by organizations that grow through replication (e.g., McDonald's, Starbucks, Walmart, Whole Foods): How can they continue to drive growth when their well of attractive locations begins to dry up?

    In 1986, a group of social entrepreneurs reimagined education in India, developing a low-cost, "one-teacher school" model to provide educational access in regions that had proven cost prohibitive for government schools. They founded Ekal to fulfill the vision of a network of 100,000 one-teacher schools throughout rural India. More than a quarter century later, in 2014, the Ekal network included over 54,000 schools. However, with the emergence of India as an economic power, government schools had received the mandate and funds to extend their reach to many of the regions that Ekal serves. Was it time for Ekal to reevaluate their vision; was the target of 100,000 schools, which had driven their growth thus far, still the best path forward? Or was it time to declare their mission of universal access to education a success in the regions that government schools now served and begin to scale back from those areas?

    Keywords: Nonprofit Organizations; Early Childhood Education; India;

    Citation:

    Drake, David, Namrata Bhattacharya, Pooja Godbole, and Amrita Saigal. "Ekal Vidyalaya: Education for Rural India." Harvard Business School Case 617-021, September 2016. View Details
  6. LabCDMX: Experiment 50

    Mitchell Weiss and Maria Fernanda Miguel

    There were probably 30,000 public buses, minibuses, and vans in Mexico City. Though, in 2015, no one knew for certain since no comprehensive schedule existed. This was why el Laboratorio para la Ciudad (or LabCDMX) had spawned an effort to generate a map of the labyrinth system that provided an estimated 14 million rides a day. Gabriella Gómez-Mont, the Lab’s founder and director, had led her team in a project to crowd-source the routes from volunteer riders in what came to be known as Mapatón CDMX. After four pilots and a two-week “mapping marathon” later, she wondered exactly what to make of the lab’s fiftieth experiment? Was Mapatón successful?

    Keywords: public entrepreneurship; experimentation; lean startup; government; innovation; crowdsourcing; Open Data; transportation; Mexico; Mexico City; Entrepreneurship; Social Entrepreneurship; Innovation and Invention; Innovation Leadership; Government Administration; Transportation; Transportation Industry; Mexico City; Mexico;

    Citation:

    Weiss, Mitchell, and Maria Fernanda Miguel. "LabCDMX: Experiment 50." Harvard Business School Case 817-031, September 2016. (Revised September 2016.) View Details
  7. Health Leads: Reaching for Impact (A)

    V. Kasturi Rangan and Sarah Appleby

    Explores strategies to achieve system-level impact for a nonprofit focused on addressing patients' basic social needs through healthcare institutions. Founded in 1996 with a volunteer-staffed help desk at Boston Medical Center connecting low-income patients with basic resources like heating assistance, job training, and childcare programs, by 2013 the nonprofit had grown to 6 cities and 1,000 volunteers serving over 11,000 patients annually. At the end of a successful “proof plan” period, Health Leads Co-Founder and CEO Rebecca Onie and her team faced the question of how to make meeting patients’ social needs a standard part of health care in the U.S.: replicate Health Leads’ proven model or instigate a social care movement?

    Keywords: social enterprise; scaling social impact; nonprofit; healthcare; health care outcomes; health care reform; health care delivery; scaling social enterprise; Social Enterprise; Health; Health Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    Rangan, V. Kasturi, and Sarah Appleby. "Health Leads: Reaching for Impact (A)." Harvard Business School Case 517-022, September 2016. View Details
  8. Health Leads: Reaching for Impact (Abridged)

    V. Kasturi Rangan and Sarah Appleby

    A nonprofit in the healthcare arena explores strategies to achieve system-level impact. Founded in 1996 with a volunteer-staffed help desk at Boston Medical Center connecting low-income patients with basic resources like heating assistance, job training, and childcare programs, by 2013 the nonprofit had grown to 6 cities and 1,000 volunteers serving over 11,000 patients annually. At the end of a successful “proof plan” period, Health Leads Co-Founder and CEO Rebecca Onie and her team faced the question of how to make meeting patients’ social needs a standard part of health care in the U.S.: replicate Health Leads’ proven model or instigate a social care movement?

    Keywords: scaling social enterprise; scaling social impact; health care delivery; health care outcomes; health care reform; nonprofit; nonprofit scaling; Social Enterprise; Health Care and Treatment; Health Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    Rangan, V. Kasturi, and Sarah Appleby. "Health Leads: Reaching for Impact (Abridged)." Harvard Business School Case 517-024, September 2016. View Details
  9. KaBOOM!: Play at Scale (Abridged)

    V. Kasturi Rangan and Sarah Appleby

    A case on scaling social impact for nonprofits. Founded in 1995, KaBOOM! quickly became a nationally recognized nonprofit in building playgrounds with strong corporate partnerships and volunteer-organizing capabilities. Over the years, KaBOOM! developed new programs, including a new web platform to enable individuals and communities to do build-it-yourself playgrounds which increased KaBOOM!’s total annual number of playgrounds built by as much as a factor of 10. The case explores how KaBOOM! evaluated its goals and determined a strategy to achieve the scale required to meet its social mission and vision of every child having a place to play.

    Keywords: scaling social enterprise; scaling social impact; social enterprise; nonprofit scaling; nonprofit; nonprofit organizations; Social Enterprise; Social Entrepreneurship; United States;

    Citation:

    Rangan, V. Kasturi, and Sarah Appleby. "KaBOOM!: Play at Scale (Abridged)." Harvard Business School Case 517-027, September 2016. View Details
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