03/29/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

New Frontiers: Redefining Service for the 21st Century

"We stand at the edge of a New Frontier -- the frontier of unfulfilled hopes and dreams, a frontier of unknown opportunities and beliefs in peril. Beyond that frontier are uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered problems of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus."
-- President John F. Kennedy, 1960

Fifty years after President John F. Kennedy delivered his Presidential acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention, many of the problems and questions he cites remain unsolved. While tremendous progress has been achieved throughout the past half century, it falls to the next generation of leaders to continue pushing the limits of the New Frontier through creativity, innovation and exploration. Inspired by this challenge, the theme of the 11th annual Social Enterprise Conference at Harvard is "New Frontiers: Redefining Service for the 21st Century."

What is service? At a basic level, "service" conjures images of the hours of community service many of us logged during grade school: isolated events where we volunteered at the local soup kitchen, picked up garbage along the highway or tutored at local schools. In reality, volunteer work is just one facet of service; we believe service expands far beyond something you do on a Saturday afternoon; service is an attitude, a passion and an ambition that permeates daily life.

"In the end, service binds us to each other -‐ and to our communities and our country -‐ in a way that nothing else can. That's how we become more fully American... That's the essence of our liberty ‐‐ that we give back, freely... You don't have to devote your entire career to service -‐ though I hope that many of the students here will. But I'm asking you to have a public service mindset. I'm asking that no matter where you live, or what job you do, or what obstacles you face, you're always looking for ways to make service part of your life."
-- President Barack H. Obama, 2009

So what does it mean to serve? How do companies, organizations, and ultimately INDIVIDUALS embody this notion? Do we have a responsibility to serve? How are people channeling their passions to serve others in their communities, be they local, regional or global?

Most importantly, how do we want to shape how service is defined throughout the world? As leaders, what is our voice, what is our input, and what is our vision for what could be?

The Social Enterprise Conference offers an opportunity to explore these questions alongside passionate individuals with diverse perspectives who might not otherwise come together: Students connect with practitioners, and practitioners across disciplines connect with one another. The conference provides a platform for participants to crystallize what service is for them, so that each of us can carry forward a clearer mission for the application of service to our own lives.

Are you a graduate student with a great idea? Win up to $6,000 plus professional consulting for your idea through the Pitch for Change contest. Entries must be submitted via online application by Saturday, January 30, 2010, 11:59 p.m.

Learn more and register for the 2010 Social Enterprise Conference.

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