Recapping the 16th Annual Social Enterprise Conference at Harvard Business School

This past Saturday, the 16th Annual Social Enterprise Conference was held at Harvard Business School. The conference brought together great minds in the social impact space, ranging from founders of successful for-profit and non-profit organizations, to practitioners and students deeply embedded in the field. Anchor & Leap’s Founder, Alison Berman, attended the conference and helped facilitate one of ReWork’s IdeaLabs. Here are her key takeaways.


Anchor & Leap’s Top insights from the conference:

1.   Cross-sector collaboration sounds great…and is quite challenging in practice

Sebastian Fries, Chief Giving Officer at TOMs, Jerry O’Dwyer, Principal at Deloitte Consulting, and Sujean Lee, SVP of Corporate Affairs at Chobani gathered for a panel on cross-sector collaboration and the ecosystems of social change.  Here are the topline points:   

  •  Understand all motivating factors from each party involved.

  •  Share decision making responsibility.

  • Advocate for transparency, and from all parties. Where will each benefit accrue? Identify it.

  • Don’t let bad partnerships drag on.

  •  Limits are generally a construct of a short-term mindset and can often be overcome when you reframe the question.

2.   Test more than you talk

Rapid prototyping can be uncomfortable, and at times, quite ambiguous. It is more comforting to be slow, deliberate, and calculated in our actions, but this is not always best. Early on in solutions design, a high quantity of ideas to prototype and test is often more valuable than having just a few quality ideas. At first, withhold judgment, let go of perfection, and most importantly, get outside of your head and test your ideas with users. Do this now, not tomorrow. Then go back and refine your prototype with new insights.

3.   Always look for the third way 

 Alan Khazei and Vanessa Kirsch, named by Fortune Magazine and CNN Money in their lists of “World’s Greatest Leaders: 9 Dynamic Dues,” kicked off the conference Saturday morning. Vanessa, Founder and CEO of New Profit Inc., spoke very openly about how dyslexia forced her at a young age to think outside of the box. What this meant for Vanessa in the long term is the ability to always find a third, or alternative path to solving challenges.

4.  Be an expert in your field

Expertise = credibility. Period.

5.    Take BIG risks in your 20’s!

While speaking to a room filled with many 20 and 30 year olds, Alan Khazei, Founder and CEO of Be The Change, Inc., drilled in this point. Many of us have already heard this, and Meg Jay’s TED Talk, Why 30 is not the new 20, makes a few great points as well. In the context of the Social Enterprise Conference, this opened the idea of risk taking in all areas of life—in business, in leadership, in the social challenges we choose to tackle, and in our personal relationships.


Have additional questions or thoughts about the day? Shoot us an email!

Posted on February 17, 2015 .