Fall 2023
September 7 - October 19
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, 8:30AM - 9:50AM
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Social Entrepreneurship and Systems Change


Social entrepreneurs don’t just build organizations, they change systems. This course looks at social entrepreneurship through the lens of traditional entrepreneurship, but asks how people motivated by disrupting entrenched and often inequitable systems differ from traditional entrepreneurs: from their mindset and character, to their capacity for systems thinking and empathetic product design, to how they navigate diverse sources of capital to build either for-profit, nonprofit, or hybrid organizations. The course also looks at how systems change requires entrepreneurs to think beyond their own organizations to collaborate within their field and to motivate collective action, and to combine direct impact with the indirect effects of changing culture and shaping policy.

The course asks a set of core questions: Who are social entrepreneurs and what makes them tick? How do they make the right strategic choices to scale their organizations to create meaningful, lasting change? From team building to capital raising to measuring effectiveness, what are the building blocks of effective social enterprises? And at a time when there is increasing skepticism of business and philanthropy, why are social enterprises still the best positioned to be catalysts for meaningful social change?

The course features a diverse group set of protagonists in diverse contexts (issues, geographies, stages, organizational forms), but also asks students go deep on a single social entrepreneur of their choosing over the course of the semester, culminating with an integrative final assignment that through a peer review process leads to the development of a new case study for the following year’s class.

Class Notes: Students interested in cross-registering into HBSMBA courses can submit petitions starting Thursday, August 31. Petitions are due by Thursday, September 7 at 6pm. In addition to submitting a petition, you must provide a resume/CV and statement of interest in order to be considered for this course. Please email those items to Echo Summer-Berson: eberson@hbs.edu. Should you be admitted to this course, please note that you will be charged a course fee ($100 per 1.5 credit course/$200 per 3 credit course). General information about HBS cross-registration policies can be found at http://www.crossreg.hbs.edu. This course will be accepting auditors. Please contact the faculty to request approval. Should you be admitted to this course as an auditor, please note that you will be charged a course fee ($100 per 1.5 credit course/$200 per 3 credit course). For more information on the complete audit request process, visit https://www.hbs.edu/mba/registrar/crossregistration/Pages/crossregistration-courseplanning.aspx under Auditors and Harvard Fellows.

Business School MBA
Harvard Business School
Course Level
Interest Area
Cross Registration