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Impact Insights

Social Enterprise Fall in Review

By: Margot Dushin 05 Dec 2019

For the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative, fall went by in a flash. The fall semester is a time for meeting new students and reconnecting with returning students, for students to reflect on past experiences and think about future opportunities, and for connecting all students to the resources at HBS to explore social enterprise.

Kicking off the semester

In early September, we kicked off the new academic year with the SEI Kick-Off – an opportunity for incoming MBA students to meet fellow classmates and learn more about social enterprise opportunities and resources. At the reception, representatives of the ten social enterprise-related clubs gave pitches on their clubs’ goals and activities, then connected with interested students.

Career programming

September and October rolled out a series of career sessions, co-sponsored with the HBS Career & Professional Development Office, including:

  • Careers in Social Enterprise: Matt Segneri (MBA 2010), Director of the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative, spoke about career opportunities in all three sectors, roles for MBAs, and programs that support students and alumni in bringing their skills to the field. Max Hodges (MBA 2010), Executive Director of the Boston Ballet, then shared her own pathway and experience. She talked about the skills an MBA brings to the arts world, including accountability, data-driven decision making, and positive ROI projects; and recommended that students “see the two years at HBS as a change to test and refine your hypothesis” on how to have impact.
  • Leadership and Innovation in the Public Sector: Professor Mitch Weiss (MBA 2004), Matt Segneri, and a panel of second-year students held a lively session focusing on innovation and leadership opportunities at the intersection of the public and private sectors. Mitch also encouraged testing during your time at HBS, telling the group: “Should you work in the public sector? Yes. How should you get engaged? Yes. Just do it! Find a light touch way to try it and ‘run the experiment’ to see if you like it.” Second year students shared their summer internship experiences, emphasizing the importance of finding a strong leader who you really believe in and want to follow, and making sure leaders are also invested in you and your experience and growth.
  • Social Enterprise Career Pathways and Perspectives: SEI brought together four great alumni who have successfully built social enterprise careers to share career pathways and perspectives on being an MBA in the field: Joann Chen (MBA 2016), Partner, Equal Opportunity Ventures; Will Fowler (MBA 2014), Senior Vice President, Strategy, Finance, and Operations, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research; Carter Romansky (MBA 2009), Chief Business Development and Insights Officer, The Achievement Network; and Evan Rowe (MBA 2016), Director of Revenue, MBTA. Takeaways from the conversation included the evolving nature of a social impact career, the importance of both improvements and innovations to create change, and the value of an MBA in bringing an interdisciplinary approach to solving problems.
  • Summer Fellows Wrap-Up: Matt Segneri, Margot Dushin (Director of Programs), and Shelby Longland (Community Manager) hosted a wrap-up for our Social Enterprise Summer Fellows, to share experiences from their summer and discuss how their internships are shaping their future involvement in social enterprise. Students reflected on different decision factors including proximity, roles, and opportunities to further test hypotheses for impact.

New Ventures

By mid-November, we were already thinking about next semester! Our New Venture Competition Kick-off gave an overview of the 2020 competition, and a chance for students from across Harvard University to pitch their ideas and meet potential teammates. Fifty students pitched, with ideas ranging from helping companies reach sustainability goals, to giving teachers toolkits for incorporating 21st century skills, to providing health care professionals ways to share interactive medical cases.

Supporting students in “testing”

An emerging theme in all of our conversations was “testing” – testing out fields, roles, and, organizations, and exploring how best to have impact throughout careers. HBS provides many opportunities for MBA students to test and refine through their social enterprise engagement, including student clubs, summer internships, independent projects, courses, and career programming and support. The fall is just the beginning, and we look forward to continuing to educate, support, and inspire students to tackle society's toughest challenges and make a difference in the world.