Harvard Business School has awarded Social Entrepreneurship Fellowships to two recent graduates, Darren Brehm (MBA 2007) and Brian Elliot (MBA 2009). Brehm was selected for his work in launching AbilityTrip, a Web site that aggregates information on the accessibility of destinations around the globe for individuals with disabilities. Elliot is the founder of Friendfactor, a social networking platform dedicated to accelerating legal equality for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community in the United States.
The HBS Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship program supports recent HBS graduates who are launching social enterprises -- nonprofit, for-profit, or hybrid organizations --- with a focus on creating social value. The program provides each recipient with $25,000 in funding to support the venture.
"The Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship is an important component of a portfolio of career programs at HBS designed to celebrate and support current students and recent graduates who pursue career paths in social enterprise," said Laura Moon, Director of the School's Social Enterprise Initiative. "These two social entrepreneurs exemplify the ways in which a person can apply business practices and managerial disciplines in new ways to create sustained social impact."
Enhancing the Lives of the Physically Disabled
Darren Brehm (MBA 2007)
Cofounded by Brehm in 2008, AbilityTrip provides current and reliable information about the accessibility of destinations around the world, from logistics and accommodations to activities, restaurants, and medical services. After an automobile accident in 1993 that left him a quadriplegic and also seriously injured his wife, they saw the need for a centralized resource for information of this kind. This was all the more apparent as he continued to travel extensively for leisure.
"We created this site," Brehm said, "in hopes of making information on accessible travel easy to find and up to date for people with all kinds of physical challenges -- from the visually and hearing impaired to the wheelchair and scooter user to the senior citizen with mobility problems."
In the future, Brehm plans to hire disabled employees to help build content. He also aims to provide consulting to resorts and other destinations to assist them in becoming more attractive to disabled travelers.
Accelerating Legal Equality for LBGT Americans
Brian Elliot (MBA 2008)
Scheduled to be launched in the fall, the Friendfactor platform, which will be tightly integrated with Facebook, will enable the American LGBT community to connect with millions of potential new supporters to promote federal and state legislative progress toward full LGBT equality in this country. "As a gay man, I can be legally fired from my job in 29 states and legally evicted from my home in more than 30 states," Elliot explained.
In a pilot he conducted last summer, he invited 600 friends to participate in a personal campaign for equality he created online. Within four weeks Elliot had 19,000 supporters. "I quickly realized that if that many people backed my efforts," he said, "the effect we could have if we could get a considerable number of other gay and transgender Americans to reach out to their friends in this way would be very powerful." Less than a year old, the organization now has a staff of four as well as an advisory board that includes figures from both major political parties and senior corporate executives.
Applying for Social Entrepreneurship Fellowships
HBS Social Entrepreneurship Fellows are selected annually through a competitive process. To be considered for a 2011-2012 Fellowship, candidates must submit an application by June 15, 2011. Applications are judged on the innovativeness of the idea, the potential for creating social value, and the plan's likelihood of success.
About the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative
Grounded in Harvard Business School's mission to educate leaders who make a difference in the world, the Social Enterprise Initiative aims to inspire, educate, and support current and emerging leaders in all sectors to apply management skills to create social value.
Through an integrated approach to social enterprise-related teaching, research, and activities at HBS, the Social Enterprise Initiative engages with leaders in the nonprofit, for-profit, and public sectors to generate and disseminate practicable resources, tools, and knowledge with the ultimate goal of bettering society. The Social Enterprise Initiative's strategic objectives range from building the world's best faculty dedicated to social enterprise research, course development, and teaching to providing learning experiences that not only increase the effectiveness of social-sector executives, but tap into the potential for social value creation among the entire community of HBS students and alumni.
The Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship is designed to fit within the array of established programs that support HBS students in pursuit of new social ventures --a career path that is increasingly being explored by recent graduates. Since the founding of the Social Venture Track of the HBS Business Plan Contest in 2001, for example, nearly one-third of the contest entrants have gone on to pursue some form of implementation of their plan, and several have done so immediately or soon after graduation.