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July 29, 2009

The Challenge of Scaling Growth

Catherine New
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Columbia Business School’s Social Enterprise Program is poised to reach a milestone this fall when Professor Ray Fisman begins as faculty director, succeeding Ray Horton who stepped down as director of the program in the spring.

In the new issue of Hermes, the cover story tracks the development of the program under Horton’s guidance over the past 25 years. He attributes the proliferation of student interest in social enterprise to corporate scandals and a changing attitude toward the value of contributing to society. Last March, speaking at a social enterprise conference hosted by the Korea Development Institute and Columbia Business School, he elaborated on the meaning, scope and potential of social enterprise. (Complete video of his presentation above.)

Broadly defined, the field of social enterprise is the application of business skills and methods to social problems, Horton said. That can take place in many forms, from socially responsible investing and corporate responsibility to nonprofit management and social entrepreneurship. Horton says that one of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs in the social sector face is how to sustain growth.

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“The factor more than any other that clouds the potential of social entrepreneurs is the difficulty of bringing the organizations they found to scale, to sustainable scale,” he said. “The inability to attract sufficient resources converts many would-be social entrepreneurs into salaried employees of larger organizations...Fortunately, there are new developments and new institutions and new ways of using the market that will bring financial and human resources.”

NOTE: In a school-wide effort to conserve materials and reduce costs, Hermes magazine will no longer be mailed to alumni unless they confirm they would like to continue receiving it. If you are an alumni of the School, please log in and confirm your preference.

Cover photo credit: Simon Harvey