History of Social Enterprise at HBS


  • Launch of the student-led Nonprofit Management Club (1980), which has now become part of the Social Enterprise Club. Today, with over 400 members, it is one of the largest clubs on campus.
  • Launch of the Nonprofit and Public Management Summer Fellowship program (1982), which has evolved into the Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship program. Since its founding, the program has supported more than 1,000 students who have worked within social enterprises to address key managerial issues.


  • Launch of the HBS Nonprofit/Public Interest Loan Assistance program (1992)
  • Launch of the Social Enterprise Initiative (1993) under the leadership of Professors James E. Austin and V. Kasturi Rangan, with founding support from the John C. Whitehead Fund for Not-for-Profit Management.
  • Research forums on Nonprofit Strategy, Business Leadership in the Social Sector, and Consumer Driven Health Care
  • Launch of social enterprise MBA elective courses:
    • Entrepreneurship in the Social Sector (1994)
    • Business Leadership and Strategic Corporate Citizenship (1998)
  • Launch of the Social Enterprise Executive Education programs:
    • Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management (1995)
    • Governing for Nonprofit Excellence (1996)


  • Launch of the annual student-led Social Enterprise Conference (2000). Today, it is one of the largest conferences on campus, attracting more than 1,200 students, alumni, and practitioners. In 2009 the Conference was named by Forbes.com as one of the “Top 12 most influential and exclusive executive gatherings,” and was the only student-run event to make the list.
  • Launch of the Social Venture Track of the HBS Business Plan Contest (2001). Since it began, the contest has had more than 550 participants working on over 190 plans, reflecting a mix of nonprofit, for-profit and hybrid business models—one third of which have been launched in some form.
  • Launch of the Social Enterprise Knowledge Network research collaboration in Latin America (2001)
  • Launch of the Social Enterprise Alumni Association (2001), which attracts 600 members in its first year.
  • Launch of HBS Leadership Fellows program (2002) to enable a select number of graduating HBS students to experience high-impact management positions in nonprofit and public-sector organizations for one year at a competitive salary. Since it began, 97 Fellows and 44 organizations have participated in the program.
  • Launch of the Public Education Leadership Project, a joint initiative with the Graduate School of Education (2003)
  • Research conference on Global Poverty: Business Solutions and Approaches (2005) brings together 120 academics and business, nonprofit, and government leaders from around the world.
  • Launch of additional social enterprise MBA elective courses. (For a listing of current elective offerings, please visit MBA Experience: Elective Courses.)
    • Entrepreneurship in Education Reform (2003)
    • Business at the Base of the Pyramid (2006)
    • Commerce and Society (2007)
    • Leading and Governing High-Performing Nonprofit Organizations (2008)
  • Launch of additional social enterprise executive education programs:
    • Performance Measurement for Effective Management of Nonprofit Organizations (2001)
    • Public Education Leadership Program (2003)
    • Corporate Social Responsibility (2005)
  • Launch of New Orleans Service Immersion (2006), which inspires the "immersion" program concept of off-campus, experiential learning opportunities for students during the January term (including past social enterprise immersion trips to Haiti, India, New Orleans, and Rwanda).
  • Thomas Tierney, MBA 1980 and cofounder of the Bridgespan Group, is named Chair of the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative Advisory Board (2009).
  • Launch of HBS Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship to support recent HBS graduates who are launching social enterprises (2009).
  • Convened approximately 200 alumni and leading practitioners through research forums focused upon The Future of Social Enterprise (2008) and High-Impact Philanthropy (2009).

2010 to present

  • Launch of additional social enterprise MBA elective courses. (For a listing of current elective offerings, please visit MBA Experience: Elective Courses.)
    • Managing Global Health (2010)
    • Acting in Time: Leadership and Management in the Face of Large-Scale Risks (2011)
    • Influencing Social Change: Field Course (2011)
    • Creating and Communicating Value: Building Business Models: Field Course (2012)
    • Entrepreneurship in the Private and Social Sectors (2012)
    • Social Impact Investing: Field Course (2012)
    • Social Innovation Lab: Field Course (2012)
  • Launch of additional social enterprise executive education programs:
    • Building Businesses in Emerging Markets (2011)