Social Enterprise

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 managerial, leadership, and governance challenges associated with driving sustained, high-impact social change. From the outset, our faculty focused on societal needs and, through that vantage point, pursued an exploration of the organizational forms or processes that would most effectively mobilize resources to address those needs, with a concentration on the following major topics:

  • Leadership, strategy, and governance of socially mission-driven organizations across the spectrum from entrepreneurial to established
  • The role of business leadership and corporate citizenship in driving social change
  • Business at the Base of the Pyramid—business models that address the needs and wants of the four billion people living on less than $5/day
  • Management levers needed to create and sustain high-performing K-12 public school districts in the United States
  • Evolving models being deployed to mobilize financial resources, including venture philanthropy; impact investing; and capital flows within the nonprofit sector

Defined by a cross-disciplinary, multi-sectoral approach, our research framework encompasses nonprofits, corporate involvement in the social sector, cross-sector collaboration, hybrids that were nonprofits with for-profit dimensions, and for-profits with nonprofit dimensions. For example, Alnoor Ebrahim and Michael Chu in General Management collaborate with Shawn Cole in Finance to explore impact investing’s performance metric, optimization, and structural challenges, while General Management Professors Joseph Bower, Herman B. “Dutch” Leonard, and Lynn Paine develop frameworks for rethinking the role of business in society. Through such research, we are helping to stimulate the adaptation of innovative business practices across the public, non-profit, and for-profit sectors, serving as a catalyst to creating social value worldwide.

Keywords: business and societybusiness at the base of the pyramidcause marketingcorporate citizenshipcorporate social responsibilitycross-sector collaborationeconomic developmentglobal povertyimpact investingnonprofit governancenonprofit marketingnonprofit strategypublic educationsocial capitalsocial developmentsocial entrepreneurshipsocial marketingsocial valueventure philanthropy

  1. The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art

    Since its opening in Beijing in November 2007 as the first non-profit art center in China, UCCA had been operating with the mission to “promote the continued development of the Chinese art scene, foster international exchange, and showcase the latest in art and culture to hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.” For the past six years, UCCA had worked with more than 100 artists and designers to present 87 art exhibitions and 1,826 public programs to over 1.8 million visitors, including many important leaders from all over the world. Given the context of the economic and political environment in the rapidly changing Chinese art market, the founders and senior management of UCCA wondered what they could do to achieve growth and financial viability while continuing to realize their mission.

    Keywords: art world; art gallery; art market; Arts; Nonprofit Organizations; Entrepreneurship; China;


    Khaire, Mukti, and Nancy Hua Dai. "The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art." Harvard Business School Case 815-022, September 2014. View Details
  2. Fresno’s Social Impact Bond for Asthma

    In 2014, Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) were quickly gaining popularity as an investment vehicle which joined together private investors and nonprofits to tackle social issues. Although numerous SIB projects and proposals had cropped up across the U.S. following the launch of the first SIB in the UK in 2010, none were explicitly focused on healthcare. Fresno, California announced the first healthcare SIB in 2013 to fund home-based programs to reduce asthma attacks. If successful, the Fresno SIB model would help solve the challenge of delivering preventative care efficiently in at-risk communities.

    Keywords: "Social enterprise, Health care, Marketing, Bonds, Financing, asthma, air pollution, air quality, chronic disease"; public health; Health; Health Care and Treatment; Finance; Health Industry; Financial Services Industry; United States;


    Quelch, John A., and Margaret L. Rodriguez. "Fresno’s Social Impact Bond for Asthma." Harvard Business School Case 515-028, September 2014. View Details
  3. Advanced Leadership Pathways: Raymond Jetson's MetroMorphosis and the Effort to Transform Baton Rouge

    Raymond Jetson, an inner-city pastor, former Louisiana state legislator, and 2010 Harvard University Advanced Leadership Fellow, has embarked on a new career as a social entrepreneur. The case charts Jetson’s career in public life and the ministry, his experience as an Advanced Leadership Fellow, and his efforts to establish and grow a nonprofit organization, MetroMorphosis, with a mission “to develop and mobilize a critical mass of citizens in inner-city neighborhoods to design and implement sustainable solutions to persistent community challenges.” As he approaches 60 and contemplates his future and that of his organization, Jetson must consider how to position MetroMorphosis for maximum impact now and over the long term.

    Keywords: MetroMorphosis; Raymond Jetson; Advanced Leadership Initiative; ALI; social entrepreneurship; Louisiana; Baton Rouge; Social Entrepreneurship; Nonprofit Organizations; Louisiana; North America; United States;


    Kanter, Rosabeth M., Rakesh Khurana, and Daniel Penrice. "Advanced Leadership Pathways: Raymond Jetson's MetroMorphosis and the Effort to Transform Baton Rouge." Harvard Business School Case 315-013, September 2014. View Details
  4. Hospital for Special Surgery (A)

    Hospital for Special Surgery, a focused factory for orthopedics and joint disease, is contemplating various growth options: further growth in the United Kingdom's National Health Services, management of hospitals in the United States, and/or hospital consulting. Reviews the issues surrounding growth of a nonprofit institution and the United Kingdom's socialized health care system.

    Keywords: Cross-Cultural and Cross-Border Issues; Growth and Development Strategy; Nonprofit Organizations; Expansion; Health Industry; United Kingdom; United States;


    Herzlinger, Regina E. "Hospital for Special Surgery (A)." Harvard Business School Case 315-012, August 2014. View Details
  5. Supply Chain Screening Without Certification: The Critical Role of Stakeholder Pressure

    To assess and manage reputational risks associated with supply chains, buyers are increasingly seeking information about their suppliers' labor and environmental performance. Several voluntary programs have arisen to encourage suppliers to report this information in a standardized manner, but the information companies report might misrepresent their performance and can thus mislead rather than inform buyers. We hypothesize particular circumstances in which buyers can screen suppliers based on their participation in voluntary programs requiring public commitments and public reporting. In particular, we theorize that stakeholder scrutiny can effectively deter companies with misrepresentative disclosures from participating in such programs, and that this deterrence effect is stronger for smaller companies and in institutional contexts featuring stronger activist pressures and stronger norms of corporate transparency. Examining the decisions of 2,043 firms headquartered in 42 countries of whether to participate in the UN Global Compact, we find support for these hypotheses.

    Keywords: United Nations; Labor standards; Working Conditions; supply chain; supplier relationship; procurement; globalization; governance; sustainability; Sustainability Management; quality; quality and safety; safety; risk; reputation; Globalization; Globalized Markets and Industries; Supply Chain Management; Supply Chain; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Quality; Risk and Uncertainty; Safety;


    Kayser, Susan A., John W. Maxwell, and Michael W. Toffel. "Supply Chain Screening Without Certification: The Critical Role of Stakeholder Pressure." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-009, August 2014. View Details
  6. Husk Power

    In late 2013, Husk Power Systems found itself falling further and further behind plan. The founding CEO had decided to resign. His co-founder is faced with the decision of quitting his corporate job in the US to head to India and help form a new management team. Husk is an Indian startup founded in 2007 with the goal of global rural electrification. The company has decided to pivot from operating biomass gasification plants towards developing solar microgrids in India and East Africa.

    Keywords: Plant-Based Agribusiness; Business Model; Business Startups; Energy Generation; Renewable Energy; Social Entrepreneurship; Foreign Direct Investment; International Finance; Globalized Markets and Industries; Crime and Corruption; Employee Relationship Management; Independent Innovation and Invention; Employment; Leadership Style; Leading Change; Management Practices and Processes; Management Style; Management Succession; Management Skills; Emerging Markets; Social Psychology; Culture; Business Strategy; Agriculture and Agribusiness Industry; Energy Industry; Green Technology Industry; Utilities Industry; Africa; India; United States;


    Lassiter, Joseph B., III, and Sid Misra. "Husk Power." Harvard Business School Case 815-023, August 2014. (Revised August 2014.) View Details
  7. Building an Infrastructure for Empirical Research on Social Enterprise: Challenges and Opportunities

    Purpose Despite the increase in empirical studies of social enterprise in management and organization research, the lack of a cohesive knowledge base in this area is concerning. In this chapter, we propose that the underdevelopment of the attendant research infrastructure is an important, but oft-overlooked, barrier to the development of this body of empirical research. Design/methodology We explore this proposition through a review of 55 empirical studies of social enterprises published in the last fifteen years, in which we examine the mix and trajectory of research methods used and the research infrastructure on which these studies depend. Findings We find that empirical research has used social enterprise largely as a context for theory development, rather than deductively testing, and thus building upon, existing theories. The latter pattern is due largely to the absence of two key dimensions of infrastructure: well-defined samples, and consistent, operational measures of social enterprise success. Finally, we identify present trends along both dimensions that contribute to changing the research infrastructure for empirical social enterprise research. Originality/value Our analysis highlights the critical need for research infrastructure to advance empirical research on social enterprise. From this perspective, research infrastructure-building provides an important opportunity for researchers interested in social enterprise and others interested in enabling high-quality empirical research in this setting.

    Keywords: Social Entrepreneurship;


    Lee, Matthew, Julie Battilana, and Ting Wang. "Building an Infrastructure for Empirical Research on Social Enterprise: Challenges and Opportunities." In Social Entrepreneurship and Research Methods. Vol. 9, edited by Jeremy C. Short, David J. Ketchen, and Donald D. Bergh, 241–264. Research Methodology in Strategy and Management. Emerald Group Publishing, 2014. View Details
  8. Advancing Research on Hybrid Organizing—Insights from the Study of Social Enterprises

    Hybrid organizations that combine multiple organizational forms deviate from socially legitimate templates for organizing and thus experience unique organizing challenges. In this paper, we introduce and develop the concept of hybrid organizing, which we define as the activities, structures, processes, and meanings by which organizations make sense of and combine multiple organizational forms. We propose that social enterprises that combine the organizational forms of both business and charity at their cores are an ideal type of hybrid organization, making social enterprise an attractive setting to study hybrid organizing. Based on a literature review of organizational research on social enterprise and on our own research in this domain, we develop five dimensions of hybrid organizing and related opportunities for future research. We conclude by discussing how insights from the study of hybrid organizing in social enterprises may contribute to organization theory.

    Keywords: hybrid organizations; social enterprise; Organizational Structure; Social Entrepreneurship;


    Battilana, Julie, and Matthew Lee. "Advancing Research on Hybrid Organizing—Insights from the Study of Social Enterprises." Academy of Management Annals 8, no. 1 (2014): 397–441. View Details
  9. BMVSS: Changing Lives through Innovation One Jaipur Limb at a Time (Abridged)

    Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS) is an Indian not-for-profit organization engaged in assisting differently-abled persons by providing them with the legendary low-cost prosthesis, the Jaipur Foot, and other mobility-assisting devices, free of cost. Known for its patient-centric culture, its focus on innovation, and for developing the $20 Stanford-Jaipur knee, BMVSS has assisted over a million people in its lifetime of 44 years. As the founder, Mr. D.R. Mehta, thinks about the financial sustainability of BMVSS, he must devise a strategy that will sustain its human impact well into the future.

    Keywords: Nonprofit Organizations; Financial Condition; Health Care and Treatment; Diversity Characteristics; Giving and Philanthropy; Growth and Development Strategy; Medical Devices and Supplies Industry; Health Industry; India;


    Datar, Srikant, Saloni Chaturvedi, and Caitlin Bowler. "BMVSS: Changing Lives through Innovation One Jaipur Limb at a Time (Abridged)." Harvard Business School Case 115-009, July 2014. View Details
  10. Monitoring the Monitors: How Social Factors Influence Supply Chain Auditors

    Keywords: CSR; corporate accountability; corporate social responsibility; outsourced production; outsourcing; sustainability; Sustainability Management; auditing; audit quality; gender; conflicts of interest; bias; Apparel and Accessories Industry; Electronics Industry; Manufacturing Industry; China; India; Pakistan; Bangladesh; Mexico; Brazil; Viet Nam; Indonesia; Philippines; Sri Lanka; Taiwan; South Korea;


    Short, Jodi L., and Michael W. Toffel. "Monitoring the Monitors: How Social Factors Influence Supply Chain Auditors." Elevate Limited Webinar, July 17, 2014. (Webinar coordinated by Elevate Limited.) View Details
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