29 Apr 2011

Harvard Business School Names 2011 Social Entrepreneurship Fellow

Recipient focuses on solving housing problems for the urban poor

BOSTON—Harvard Business School has awarded the 2011 Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship to Rakhi Mehra (MBA 2009). Mehra was selected for her work in co-founding micro Home Solutions (mHS), a social initiative for developing sustainable housing solutions for the urban poor. Her achievement was recognized at this year’s HBS Business Plan Contest, where teams of student entrepreneurs compete to win cash and in-kind services.

The HBS Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship program supports recent HBS graduates who are launching social ventures — nonprofit, for–profit, or hybrid organizations — with a central focus on creating social value. Through a competitive selection process, the program provides a recipient with $25,000 in funding to support the venture.

“Harvard Business School has a tremendous commitment to social enterprise, which is exemplified through the work of Rakhi Mehra and other MBA students and alumni striving to drive social change," said Laura Moon, Director of the School’s Social Enterprise Initiative. "Since the beginning of the Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship program, we have seen a wide array of business models geared to solving important issues, from civil rights and equality of opportunity to education and public health, both nationwide and globally.”

Based in New Delhi, mHS is working to build more socially inclusive cities by developing a portfolio of economically viable housing solutions for low-income populations. Starting in India and expanding to other countries around the world, mHS develops and implements projects based on the three key principles of community, affordability, and sustainable design.

“The HBS Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship award is a true honor and timely encouragement,” said Mehra. “This recognition gives me a renewed sense of responsibility in the leadership role I can play in the area of social housing in India.”

With many years of international development experience, Mehra has worked with CARE; social entrepreneur group Ashoka Fellows; Grameen Bank, a provider of credit to the poor in Bangladesh; and RABO Bank, a global bank focused on agribusiness. She has also interned with Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, where she looked at sustainable ways to reduce poverty. Prior to receiving her MBA from Harvard Business School in 2009, she studied economics at St. Stephens College, Delhi, and received a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where she studied politics, philosophy, and economics. She was also a competitive swimmer for India and swam on the winning English Channel relay team for Oxford University.

“The Steering Committee was incredibly impressed by the potential of the micro Home Solutions plan to be a viable venture and contribute toward finding housing solutions for the urban poor,” said William A. Sahlman, the Dimitri V. D’Arbeloff - Class of 1955 Professor of Business Administration, Senior Associate Dean for External Relations, and Faculty Co-Chair of the Social Enterprise Fellowship. “The Committee was also pleased and inspired by the commitment, creativity, and rigor demonstrated by the entire pool of applications from alumni committed to fulfilling the School’s mission of educating leaders who make a difference in the world.”

Past Social Entrepreneurship Fellows have launched a range of ventures designed to effect social change, including: Darren Brehm (MBA 2007), who founded AbilityTrip, a for-profit, technology-based venture designed to increase the accessibility of global destinations for travelers with mobility impairments; Brian Elliot (MBA 2009), who developed Friendfactor, a pioneering new model of online organizing designed to accelerate legal equality for Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Americans; Abigail Falik (MBA 2008), who upon graduation launched Global Citizen Year, a nonprofit organization that is building a movement of young Americans who engage in a transformative “bridge year” between high school and college to address the global challenges of the 21st century; and Elizabeth Scharpf (MBA 2007) for her work in launching Sustainable Health Enterprises, a platform for starting businesses that use market-based approaches to tackle socio-economic and public health problems in developing countries.

About the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative
Since 1993, the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) has applied innovative business practices and managerial disciplines to drive sustained, high-impact social change. The Social Enterprise Initiative acts as a catalyst for creating social value by serving as a focal point for the creativity and energy of its worldwide community. These efforts have manifested themselves in a number of areas, ranging from the participation of approximately 90 faculty members in social enterprise research and teaching to the creation of over 500 social enterprise cases and teaching notes. Courses that focus on social enterprise are embedded into the MBA curriculum and HBS Executive Education program offerings, reflecting a real-world blending of business and social issues. Beyond the classroom, the Initiative offers career development and community engagement programs designed to support students and alumni engaged in the social sector. For more information, visit: www.hbs.edu/socialenterprise/.

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching, to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.