The Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) spoke with Molly Doctors and Sage Ruth, the 2013-14 co-presidents of the Social Enterprise Club, to hear about the club and their thoughts on the broader network for change.
SEI: Tell us about the Social Enterprise Club.
Molly: Our mission is to inspire, educate, and connect leaders who aim to create positive change in the world. I see the club's role as twofold: we provide both content and community. For content: we host keynote speakers, panelists, fireside chats, and other events that bring both external and internal experts to campus to speak on a variety of topics. And community: we hope that students can find a home with the SEC at HBS and develop friendships with students who share similar views and values.
Sage: To add to that, I see three main ways that we hope to have impact. First, giving students who know they want to pursue social enterprise careers the support and resources they need to do so. Second, encouraging students who have an interest in social enterprise but aren't sure of their career path to seriously consider this space, by exposing them to new ways of thinking about opportunities and giving them resources to make the less-structured career search less intimidating. Third, bringing the message that businesses can be a force for social good to the broader student body at HBS, even those who don't consider themselves interested in "social enterprise."
SEI: How did you decide to get involved in the Social Enterprise Club?
Sage: When I got to HBS I saw that so much of what happens here is done by student clubs. If I can help one more student decide to pursue a social impact career or convince one prospective student who wants to change the world that there's a home for them at HBS, then I feel like it was time well spent. But hopefully the impact is more than that!
Molly: For me, I fundamentally believe in the power of business to simultaneously create financial, social, and environmental wealth. Getting involved with the club was a natural first step for me when I arrived on campus, as I wanted to find like-minded classmates to discuss career goals, further my knowledge of the space, and share experiences of the challenges of balancing financial, social, and environmental goals in business.
SEI: Why Social Enterprise at HBS?
Sage: Social enterprise at HBS is the voice that reminds people that the tools of leadership and management can be used to create tremendous positive change in the world. It's a reminder that there are a myriad of ways to do well while doing good, and that the world's biggest problems deserve the world's best leaders.
Molly: I believe the role of social enterprise at HBS is to both innovate and draw lessons from classic managerial disciplines and apply them to help businesses and organizations create positive change in the world. It plays an important role in the broader social enterprise ecosystem. By seeding research, case writing, and course development; connecting students to internship and full-time opportunities; and providing support and networking opportunities for social entrepreneurs, HBS ultimately increases the breadth and depth of skilled managers seeking to make an impact with their careers.
SEI: Why is the Social Enterprise network important?
Molly: HBS has the ability to connect academics and professionals from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, which offers powerful opportunities for cross-sector collaborations and innovative approaches to solving some of today's greatest challenges.
Sage: The network of folks working in social enterprise — from HBS alumni to case protagonists — are the people actually out there making a difference. It's living proof of all the good that can be done and all the potential that remains from continuing to strengthen social enterprise at HBS. The network also gives students role models and a more granular understanding of what a career in social enterprise can look like. This can often be the crucial inspiration that students need to take the plunge with a social enterprise internship or post-HBS job.
SEI: What is social enterprise to you?
Sage: Social enterprise to me means work that has as a central component of its mission the desire to make a positive social impact in the world. My commitment to working in social enterprise is my way of saying that I want my efforts to create positive change in the world not simply as a possible by-product, but as an intentional outcome that motivates me to get up and go to work every day.
Molly: To me, social enterprise means any organization that purposefully seeks to combine positive social and environmental impact with financial returns by embedding these values in its DNA. The key word here is purposefully: social value can be "accidentally" created through a variety of business models, but I strongly believe that sustained change can only be achieved through intentional and clear integration into an organization's mission and values.