A $10 million gift from The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation has established the nation’s first comprehensive Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program at Harvard University. The grant will provide for more than 100 fellowships at the university.

Social Entrepreneurship is an exciting, new interdisciplinary field with significant potential to remedy a host of intractable societal ills that have plagued humankind for generations. It does so by merging time-tested financial theories and practices with solid scientific research and proven methodologies, resulting in creative, effective solutions that draw on the best of both worlds. This crossing of traditional boundaries between commerce and academia in the interest of achieving enlightened social goals holds enormous promise, but has not been pursued in a major, systematic way at the very highest levels of the American educational system.

Until now.

The establishment of the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellowship Program at Harvard is a benchmark in the development of more effective approaches to teaching, learning, and research in social entrepreneurship. To date, most social entrepreneurs have emerged from business backgrounds, and have been self-taught with regard to the social maladies they sought to alleviate. The vision underlying the Reynolds Foundation gift – and which makes it unique – is that it will enable the teaching of entrepreneurial and academic skills to be combined in a structured, contemporaneous, and heretofore unprecedented way.

The Program is designed to prepare talented young people for national leadership positions as social entrepreneurs – real world practitioners, who will be able to develop innovative solutions to our most urgent social problems. Perhaps most importantly, the Program will give them the skills they need to create solutions that are not only effective, but are also practical and financially sustainable. This solid grounding in economic reality – as essential to the success of nonprofit social action programs as it is in any for-profit enterprise – is what sets the Reynolds Foundation Program and its Fellows apart. This new generation of social entrepreneurs will be able to bring vast, untapped reserves of imagination and ingenuity to be a positive impact on the societal problems confronting America and the world in the 21st Century.

There are three major components to the Social Entrepreneurship Program made possible by the Reynolds Foundation’s $10 million gift to Harvard.

  • First, there is the Fellowship Program which will fund tuition and stipends for more than 100 master’s degree candidates at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, School of Public Health, and John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Second, the gift will establish a Leadership Fund to underwrite a wide array of curricular and co-curricular activities, programs and events that complement the Fellowship Program and further its goals. These will include off-campus visits to actual social action endeavors, face-to-face meetings between Fellows and successful social entrepreneurs, and a Business Plan Award Competition open to all Harvard students.
  • Finally, the Reynolds Foundation gift will support a Visiting Dignitaries Program, whereby high-profile national and international leaders will be invited to speak on leadership experiences and challenges at one or more of the Harvard Schools mentioned above.

Through these initiatives, the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation seeks to nurture leaders that will create viable, self-sustaining enterprises capable of developing effective practical answers to pressing domestic social issues. Countless members of our society – and of societies around the world – stand to gain.