08/08/2012 09:47 am ET Updated Oct 08, 2012

Social Entrepreneurs at Harvard

I was one of the lucky few Schwab social entrepreneurs at the Harvard's Executive Education Course this July. I was also joined by fellow Social Entrepreneurs: Zoran Puljic, Mozaik Foundation, Bosnia and Herzegovina; Essma Ben Hamida, Enda inter-arabe, Tunisia; Irad Eichler, Shekulo Tov, Israel; Veronica Abud, Fundación Educacional y Cultural La Fuente, Chile; and Eli Beer, United Hatzalah of Israel, Israel. Although I was not entirely sure of what to expect for myself, I knew I wouldn't be sleeping much from what other fellow Schwab social entrepreneurs who took the course before me had shared. The program indeed proved to be very intense - with late night readings for nine different case studies, in addition to a lot of upfront preparation before coming to the course.

But what an opportunity it was to go to Harvard! Take a look at the 50 most important management thinkers and you will find out that at least 10 are faculty members at Harvard. But then again, there are a lot of Harvard myths and I was keen to do a reality check and to see what was behind the glamour. Harvard did not disappoint. I was definitely impressed by the productive working ambience and the warm welcome we received from the staff. There were 143 people registered and all of them in top positions in nonprofit organizations. Eighty percent of them were from the US, and the rest international.

As social entrepreneurs, our business models where a bit different from the others, and I felt this helped diversify the perspectives shared in the course. Furthermore, while the other participants were from leading positions within their respective organizations, very few were the actual founders - and here we "Schwabbies" were also able to contribute some interesting insights. The age average was 49 years, which set an excellent soil for discussions based on life and professional experiences.

In any case, the program had high relevance in all topics covered - from strategic challenges of growth and scale to building high performance teams. The faculty inspired us through a mix of deepest insight, life experience, intellectual brilliance, and even humor! One popular quote that was shared in class left a strong impression on me: "Leaders do the right things. Managers do things right." I had been exactly afraid of this sort of bullemic learning - rushing from one case to the next without really processing things fully. We need to remember our mission first. We all struggle every day in our social enterprises to balance social objectives with financial sustainability, serving both financiers and beneficiaries. This course reinforced strategies for that balancing act, and has energized me to do the right things and doing them right.

Thanks to the Schwab Foundation for such a valuable learning experience.