Blogging from the 2008 Harvard Social Enterprise Conference

This was my second year at the Harvard Social Enterprise Conference – an annual gathering of the social enterprise enthusiasts from the US and around the world. The conference is jointly hosted by the Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School of Government. Below are some highlights (with a slight bias towards India!)

India in the UN Security Council

The conference kicked off with a keynote by Jan Egeland, Director of Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and Former United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Relief & Emergency Relief Coordinator. The most interesting part of his speech for me was him highlighting the importance of India becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council. He got my standing ovation!

Indian companies are showing leadership in redefining CSR

I was in a mid-morning panel on ‘International Development in 2020’ – a great line up of panelists. Nancy Barry, President, Enterprise Solutions to Poverty made an interesting point. She got the audience thinking by highlighting that traditional CSR is dead, and that companies can’t get away with just random acts of kindness and PR, and call it CSR. She also added that companies in the developing world are ‘getting it’ and they are re-aligning their business models, so as to benefit the poor. She highlighted prominent Indian companies innovating such new business models, including, ITC (e-choupal initiative), Reliance (Agricultural procurement) and IFMR Trust.

India in Pitch for Change

The event also includes a short version of a social venture competition, titled Pitch for Change. I found Innovators in Health to be an interesting entrant – they hoped to dramatically TB treatment in rural areas through their innovation called uBox

 

The uBox offers a combination of critical features – locking, multi-pill dosage, interaction tracking – at a price point that is a fraction of current solutions

Overall the conference was all it promised to be – a great gathering of social enterprise community and an amazing platform to learn and exchange ideas. Raj Kundra from Acumen Fund was there and here is his take on the conference.

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