01 Jun 2006
Social Enterprise Conference Draws 800 ParticipantsTopics:
The theme was “convergence,” and that’s precisely what some 800 students, business leaders, social entrepreneurs, and nonprofit practitioners did last March as they gathered at HBS for the seventh annual Social Enterprise Conference. The daylong event featured a number of panel discussions and two keynote presenters: Jeffrey Swartz, president and CEO of Timberland, the $1.5 billion footwear and outdoor apparel company, and Bill Drayton, CEO, chairman, and founder of Ashoka, a global association that identifies and invests in leading social entrepreneurs (currently some 1,700 individuals in sixty countries).
The convergence under discussion was the overlap of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors and the reality that success in any of these three areas increasingly requires embracing their interdependent elements.
As Swartz declared in his address, commerce and justice are closely linked, and businesses must commit themselves to the communities around them.
The conference included some seventeen panels, with a number of HBS faculty members actively participating as moderators and discussants. The panels examined aspects of education, the environment, finance and philanthropy, health care, international development, public policy, and technology.
A “Pitch for Change” competition gave participants a chance to present a nonprofit or for-profit social enterprise idea (no business plan necessary) in thirty seconds, with the two best ideas getting a second, longer hearing of two minutes. The winning concept was an online site that encourages teachers to share lesson plans and best practices. The event also presented a career fair for job seekers and offered plenty of opportunities for networking.
The Social Enterprise Conference was jointly hosted by the HBS Social Enterprise Club and by the Kennedy School of Government. As conference cochair Caitrin Moran (MBA ’06) told the Harbus, “We’re very happy with how the day went. There was such energy and enthusiasm among the panelists, speakers, and participants. It’s exciting to see so many people passionate about the same issues gathered in the same place.”
Class of MBA 2006, Section H