Harvard Social Enterprise Conference Reflection
Post by Priscilla Ning ’19
The Harvard Social Enterprise Conference gave me the pleasure of experiencing two full days of exciting panels, intriguing topics, and passionate conversations. The Conference was smoothly run, with snack and coffee breaks between each panel to provide a chance to refresh and reflect. The first day was held at the Harvard Kennedy School with a variety of panel options and even a social entrepreneurship pitch competition, while the second day was held at the beautiful, world-famous Harvard Business School. Contrary to the first day, the panels for the following day were smaller and more intimate, providing the opportunity to deeply engage and speak with the panelists.
Upon arriving, I was immediately astonished by the number of panels offered. But what really took me by surprise were the topics of these panels. They chose to deviate from the typical and general Venture Capitalism, Social Media Marketing, or Financing panel topics expected for any business conference, and instead created panels around specific issues such as Human Trafficking, the Criminal Justice System, and Fashion Dangers. For the first time, I found myself walking into most panels without background research and with absolutely no idea what to expect. However, this was extremely refreshing and I can honestly say that each panel was such an eye opener and allowed me to consider points I had never had the chance to even contemplate before.
My favorite panel of the day had to be “Criminal Justice: Reforming the System”. Just by reading the bios of the panelists, I could already tell that this panel was going to be different. All of the panelists were formerly incarcerated and are currently using their experiences to fight against the inefficiency of the criminal justice system through business. Because most of the attendees had very little or no knowledge about the specifications of the criminal justice system, the panelists took the time to explain the issues criminals face when they leave incarceration, major difficulties they face in terms of work and support, and why such a high number of them end up incarcerated again as repeat offenders. Through this dynamic panel, I discovered this whole new social sector that needed much support. I began to theorize possible solutions and felt concern that these issues were commonly overlooked in favor of other more attractive and popular issues such as education or environmental sustainability. The Harvard Social Enterprise Conference gave me the chance to open my mind to new issues and gave me the valuable information and background of each sector so that I am now more prepared to pursue any social entrepreneurship projects in my future. Thank you to the Undergraduate Professional Accelerator Fund for helping me attend this great event!