Three Cheers for Harvard

As one of the many celebrations of its 100th birthday, the Harvard Business School hosted a summit in New York on social entrepreneurship. HBS has played an important role in the rise of social entrepreneurship, and indeed in the emergence of philanthrocapitalism – and many of its professors were there to share their insights from business education with several hundred leaders of non-profits.

HBS was the first business school to teach a program of social entrepreneurship – a course that is now available at most leading business schools, thanks to demand from today’s students who increasingly want work that provides them with meaning as well as money. The HBS course was taught by Greg Dees, who now teaches a similar course at Duke University, and started with a grant from John Whitehead, the former boss of Goldman Sachs and a giant of philanthrocapitalism.

We interviewed both Whitehead and Dees for the book. Dees recalled that Whitehead initially resisted using the word “social” in the name of the course, as it sounded too left wing. Ironically, Ashoka, the organization best known for supporting leading social entrepreneurs, initially had similar reservations about the use of the word entrepreneur – but because it sounded too right wing. Happily for philanthrocapitalism, social entrepreneurship is now supported across the political spectrum, and – as the HBS event demonstrated – it is thriving like never before.