Game planning for Success at Scale | MLD-820M: Strategies for Social Impact with Matthew Lee

Even the most visionary, well-connected, and well-funded social enterprises fail to achieve their aims. A common reason for this failure—and a critical factor for success—is organizational strategy, the game plan developed by an organization and its leaders for achieving impact.

New Associate Professor of Public Policy and Management, Matthew Lee, brings to the Harvard Kennedy School his expert interest in strategic issues relevant to hybrid organizations that simultaneously pursue multiple objectives, including organization design, external evaluation, and innovation. Having studied social enterprises, impact investing, nonprofit organizations and corporate social responsibility, Lee’s teaching (and ongoing research) focuses on the social impact strategies of private, public sector, and hybrid organizations.

In his Fall Module 1 course, MLD-820M: Strategies for Social Impact, Lee and his students will investigate multiple organizations facing strategic challenges. In so doing, students will be introduced to the foundational perspectives in academic research on organizational strategy, as well as practice-oriented strategy tools and frameworks developed specifically for social impact-driven organizations.

A central theme of the course is that analysis must lead to action.

In each case and situation, there is no “right” answer, merely well-reasoned explanations for why these organizations are successful (or not), and what might work best for them going forward. The deeper goal of the course is to understand how each of these explanations work in general and to teach students how they can apply this understanding to build more competitive, more successful organizations, even in new and unfamiliar real-world situations. This ability to do so, repeatedly and with confidence, is the skill Lee says is colloquially referred to as “strategy.”  Strategy has some formal foundations with recognizable links to academic fields such as microeconomics and sociology. But MLD-820M will not resemble a finance or accounting class where each new piece builds on the last in a tidy way. Instead, student learning will include both cognitive knowledge (the content in the readings and the slides) and procedural knowledge – the practical ability to take a real-world business situation and apply a variety of tools or “lenses” to make sense of it.

Portrait of Matthew Lee smiling
HKS Associate Professor of Public Policy and Management. Matthew Lee

This course is for those interested in leading or advising organizations focused on social and environmental impact. This course will be participation-based and will include case discussions, in-class exercises, and guest speakers. Cases considered focus on non-profit organizations, social enterprises, for-profit impact-first companies such as benefit corporations, and, also, public-sector organizations.

Matthew Lee previously taught strategy at New York University and at INSEAD, based in Singapore, and has been recognized by Poets & Quants as part of their “40 under 40” list of best professors. Matthew completed his doctoral studies at Harvard Business School. His scholarly work is available on his personal website. Before his academic career, he was a consultant with the Bridgespan Group, a management consultancy serving social sector organizations. He is a graduate of Penn State University and a past Fulbright scholar.

MLD-820M is a useful complement to other MLD course offerings in the areas of Strategic Management, Leadership, Urban and Civic Innovation , Social Enterprise. If you have any questions about this course, or any other in the MLD curriculum, email Greg Dorchak, MLD Area Administrator.