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Harvard Social Enterprise Conference 2012 | by The Value Web Photo Gallery
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Harvard Social Enterprise Conference 2012

Graphic facilitation by Kelvy Bird of the opening plenary with Kavita Shukla (Fenugreen), Taylor Conroy (Destroy Normal Consulting) and Lauren Bush Lauren (FEED Projects), moderated by Daniel Epstein (Unreasonable Institute).


The Social Enterprise Conference is one of the world’s leading forums to engage in dialogue, debate, and expression around social enterprise. Over time, the Conference has become an arena to explore innovative ideas that challenge the status quo and inspire a call to action.

The Conference is entirely student-run, jointly hosted by students from the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The following are key reasons why we’re excited to organize the conference:

To showcase innovative ideas, trends, and people within social enterprise to encourage better solutions to the world’s most pressing social problems;

To expand participants’ understanding of various disciplines and models within social enterprise, with an emphasis on sharing knowledge and increasing collaboration among conference participants; and

To provide a forum for practitioners to receive feedback so that they continually evolve their models to solving global social problems.




The 2012 Harvard Social Enterprise Conference is themed Innovation, Inclusion, & Impact. These three elements are the key ingredients of successful social enterprises.

Innovation is essential to social enterprise as a pioneering field. Across geographies, large-scale organizations have yet to address staggering economic and social inequalities in sectors such as health, education and urbanization. This inaction leaves fertile territory for social enterprises to conceive and test new cutting-edge solutions.

Inclusion is core to our definition of social enterprise. Ventures that expand the boundaries of economic markets to include otherwise marginalized populations – such as small African businesses without access to credit, or uninsured American patients without access to healthcare – will provide both an increased quality of life for stakeholders, and a sustainable route to overall economic growth.

Perhaps the most compelling dimension of any social enterprise, however, is Impact. Scale has been elusive to the lion’s share of social enterprises – there are only a handful of such initiatives that have managed to engage more than a million customers or producers to positive effect. Select microfinance institutions have expanded from scratch, as have certain agricultural sourcing initiatives. Still, most under-takings have struggled to grow while maintaining the integrity of their social mission.

SECON 2012 will encourage debate and action around these three fundamentals, infused throughout our panels, workshops and keynotes. Participants will gain the insights and tools to examine their own initiatives and agendas through these lenses. By focusing the dialogue at our conference, we believe we can drive a more potent and influential social enterprise sector as a burgeoning source of positive change.

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Taken on February 29, 2012