Since its inception, the Social Enterprise Initiative has explored the role of business in creating social value. Early efforts in the late 1990s included hosting a research conference on business leadership in the social sector and developing an MBA course focused on strategic corporate citizenship. Five years later, SEI launched an executive education program on corporate social responsibility. In 2005, SEI convened a research forum on business solutions to global poverty, bringing together academic, business, nonprofit, and government leaders from around the world. This conference led to the publication of a book, the development of an MBA elective course on Business at the Base of the Pyramid, and the creation of an executive education program for leaders in the microfinance industry. Today, SEI continues to examine the challenges and opportunities in harnessing the power of the markets to create both economic and social value. In the spring of 2014, SEI hosted a research forum on Business for Social Impact, convening more than 100 practitioners and academics to discuss the global role of business in creating social change.
This course seeks to provide an understanding of how business approaches can address low income segments, often the largest components of emerging markets (both in terms of population as well as total expenditure) but nevertheless severely underserved. The course specifically explores the factors behind the commercial viability of such markets and examines the impact of business models on the social and economic development of the societies involved.