In Research


Year: 2019
Published in: Social Enterprise Journal
Cited as: Austin, James, and V. Kasturi Rangan. “Reflections on 25 years of building social enterprise education.” Social Enterprise Journal 15, no. 1 (2019): 2-21.


Social enterprise, Social enterprise initiative, Harvard business school, Education, USA


Purpose – This paper aims to reflect on 25 years of the social enterprise initiative at the Harvard Business School, examining the processes and thinking involved at key stages of this pioneering Initiative’s implementation and institutionalization.
Design/methodology/approach – The authors adopt an auto-ethnographical approach, reflexively considering the impact of our actions at key stages.
Findings – Reflecting on the experiences, the authors offer their thoughts on the challenges involved in establishing an educational program. They consider that there were give stages in the development of the program, which ensured its longevity, institutionalization and success: giving birth; starting an experiment; gaining acceptability; being embraced and achieving irreversibility.
Practical implications – The multiple challenges faced, as well as the successes that the authors had over the years, are set out. Awareness of the challenges that the authors faced will support educators to be prepared to overcome the same or similar challenges to implementing and embedding a social enterprise program.
Originality/value – This is the first time that the authors’ reflections on the history of the Social Enterprise Initiative have been brought together. As well as distinctive in their own right, the authors consider that the lessons learned from the work over such a long period could provide valuable insights to those who wish to integrate social enterprise teaching into their settings.