Watch the SECON 2012 Keynotes Live! Live Stream February 25th & 26th

Posts Tagged ‘#SECON2012’


Let’s talk structure…


One of the first questions that any (social) entrepreneur faces as they straddle the three legs of the stool – business, government and non-profit – remains: “What are you?” In essence, are you a for-profit, not-for-profit, hybrid etc.? Underlying that question (in addition to whether the organization might deservingly (or not) benefit from tax exemptions) is often a need to better understand the “motivation” behind the founding (and founders/owners/management team) of the organization?  Will your organization generate public value and/or will it privatize the gains in the form of dividends to shareholders?

These are complicated questions that lead to the heart of the wildly progressing debate on emerging structures for social enterprises. Certainly other options to consider beyond the more traditional “hybrid” structure of for-profits separated by arms-length agreements with their not-for-profit sister organization include authorized legal structures, such as Flexible Purpose Corporations and Low-Profit Limited Liability Corporations, and broadly accepted industry certifications, such as Certified B-Corps (certification given by the non-profit B-Lab from sunny Palo Alto).

Fortunately, the debate will continue at the conference, as Andrew Kassoy from B Labs, Todd Johnson of Jones Day (behind designing the legislation for Flexible Purpose Corps in CA), and Herrad Sabeti (founding thinking behind the idea of For-Benefit Organizatios) from Fourth Sector Network will be present.




Shared Value Spans Key Enterprise Functions


Shared value” is a buzz word in the social enterprise space, and rightly so. As a point of pride for the Crimson community, the term was formalized by Harvard Business School professor, Michael E. Porter and his long-time associate, Mark R. Kramer. Corporate strategies that focus on the intersection between positive financial return and social impact are typically the most effective forces for change, and many multinational companies are employing this market-driven approach. For example, Mars Chocolate, who will be speaking on Strategy with Social Impact: Sustainable Sourcing from the BoP (11:15 on Sunday), has realized that investment in the communities from which they source cocoa beans in Cote d’Ivoire strengthens their financial bottom line through better quantity and quality control.

One aspect of shared value that doesn’t always attract as much coverage as goods/raw material sourcing is the human capital version of this trend. The panel Creating Shared Value by Deepening Corporate Investment in Human Capital Development, at 3:15 on Sunday, will probe this topic with much-deserved thought by discussing how corporations are investing in the training of their next generation of workers. The mission of Genesys Works, founded by panelist Rafael Alvarez, is to train high school students in professional skills and help corporations find these students, so that they can immediately contribute to their operations. Genesys Works and the companies it partners with share the vision of a future education system oriented towards better preparing students for professional jobs.

Both of these panels will bring us fascinating discussions about how large-scale change can be achieved when for-profit companies identify coinciding social investment in all dimensions of their business practices. Be apart of the conversation on Sunday!


What we can learn from successful social entrepreneurs


Guest post by Daniel Altman, Director of Thought Leadership at Dalberg Global Development Advisors

How do you take the pulse of a growing field that spans the globe and touches almost every industry?  Social enterprise is so enormous and multifaceted that surveying it in a meaningful way might seem like a hopeless task.  But the field has its leaders – people who have created enduring organizations with national and even international visibility.  When these leaders share their hard-won insights, they can help the thousands of other social entrepreneurs to be more successful.

That’s the thinking behind the first Dalberg Survey of Social Enterprise, which we completed with a team from HBS’s “Innovation and Entrepreneurship” course for undergraduates.  We scoured our networks for leading social entrepreneurs and asked them to take a short online survey.  They told us some fascinating things about their enterprises: how often they changed their business plans, how close they were to becoming financially sustainable, how they used data versus storytelling to share their results with potential funders, whether they thought they would ever be able to depend entirely on their own revenues, and more.

We found sharp contrasts in approaches taken by successful enterprises in different industries and between for-profits and non-profits.  And the leading entrepreneurs also offered a wealth of wisdom gleaned from personal experiences, often echoing the notion that social enterprise was at least as tough as regular commercial enterprise.  As Premal Shah, the founder of Kiva, said, ”We need to take cues from Apple, Facebook, and others who keep their heads down and execute.”

To read about the results of the survey and more quotes from leaders in social enterprise, please click here ( And then, if you have a moment, please let us know what you thought:  What was most surprising about the survey’s results?  Did what the leaders said resonate with your own experiences?  What questions should we ask next time?



Ashoka and the 2012 Career Fair


The news that Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka and the progenitor of the term “social entrepreneur”, would be a keynote speaker at this year’s conference generated a lot of excitement across the Harvard campuses – the College, Law School, HBS, and HKS. While practitioners and aspiring entrants in the field are mostly familiar with his coined phrase, relatively few know about the invaluable contributions that the mild-mannered man has made, which principally laid the foundation of social enterprise. By building a platform that revolutionized the process of identifying and purposefully organizing people who innovate new social technology, Bill Drayton’s footprint in the sector is immense.

The career fair at SECON 2012 will host Ashoka: Innovators for the Publics as a participating employer that is energized to meet with attendees, to discuss roles and responsibilities at the outfit, and to describe the field experiences derived from their global programs. Ashoka’s primary goal is to indentify, support and promote social entrepreneurs on an international scale. Their network of Fellows stretches across 60 countries and 5 continents and is supported by their headquarters in Arlington, VA.

There are multiple ways that you can engage with Ashoka:

  • If you have a great idea for a social enterprise, apply to be a fellow. Also check out a new initiative that has been getting a lot of press:
  • If you just graduated with an interested in putting your hat in the ring for a unique opportunity to join Ashoka as a colleagues, mentors and mentees (and getting paid!) for a year, apply for Affinity Year:
  • If you are an undergraduate or graduate student, Ashoka accepts interns on a rolling basis:
  • If you are the kind of person that is looking for a transformative volunteer experience, Ashoka has opportunities available at global and regional offices, positions with fellows and even the opportunity to volunteer for virtual translation. Check out all the opportunities:

To help you craft talking points, you can read an interview with founder Bill Drayton here: Ashoka and more than 20 other high-impact organizations that can open doors to career in social enterprise and organizations will be represented at the Conference’s Career Fair. Make some time to introduce yourself!


All you need is a great idea!


We’ve challenged graduate schools spanning the globe, from University of Hawaii to London School of Economics, and as far as University of Toronto to Texas Tech to have their students submit their social venture ideas for our annual Pitch for Change Competition. From the overwhelming pool of applications, we are pleased to announce our 12 Pitch for Change semifinalists – Congratulations to them!

The Venture Think Tank @ North Korea: Creating “governo-preneurs” to drive business-friendly policy changes and raise living standards in North Korea

pledge4good: Ties participants’ everyday activities to donations for social impact causes

Essmart: A Rural Retail Company in Southern India: Brings essential technology to end-users through distribution to rural retailers

A Better Life: Gaming solution to poverty, allowing users to immerse themselves in life at the bottom of the pyramid while making donations to alleviate poverty

Kismet Denim: Designer jeans for women with minimal environmental and social costs

OyeIndia: Brings welfare and recognition to artisans of Indian handicraft, as trader and retailer of handicrafts

Emprofit: Creates commission-based, door-to-door sales team in Haiti, focused on job creation and long-term poverty alleviation

Ho’oulu Pacific: Increases self-sufficiency and health of Pacific Islanders by building farms to grow fresh vegetables and fish

Educate Lanka: Underwrites education of Sri Lankan children by matching them with donors in diaspora, while also providing workforce development and job training

Good Earth –Aidvertising: Smart-phone application that ties advertising revenue to donations for non-profits

Jamela Oil: Argan oil business in Southern Morocco focused on sustainability and investment in local communities

SmartBridge: Clean tech social game for energy utility companies and co-ops to encourage behavioral changes in utility consumers

Pitch for Change awards 4 of the teams who make it to the finalist round with cash and consulting hours from social enterprise accelerators/incubators in order to advance their concepts. Our judges will determine the best ideas to compete in our finalist round and will select the top three winners.  Our attendees will also be given the opportunity to weigh on their favorite pitch for the “Audience Choice” award.  We’ll send a flare when it’s your cue to vote for the idea that you think best fits with our theme of Innovation, Inclusion, and Impact!

You’ll also have the opportunity to personally meet with our 12 semifinalists at the Saturday networking reception.  They’ll be stationed at booths throughout the evening to discuss their ideas and present their views on social change.