At any age, there is always still a lot to learn, but not everyone at my age has the opportunity to go back to school! And even less to attend a course at Harvard! But thanks to the Schwab Foundation, in mid-July, I embarked on a professionally useful and very special learning experience.

At the Harvard Business School, the faculty had very different styles of teaching – each professor brought a special touch to the case study he or she covered. I also enjoyed the peer learning system within small groups during our program: the exchange of experience, the pieces of valuable advice we gave to each other, and just being in a big community of people who defend noble causes – from disabilities and cancer, to education and the environment. It was especially refreshing for me hear about these different development issues and themes, and not just microfinance, which has been my area of focus for the last 18 years.

Having attended conferences and courses primarily on microfinance over the years has actually narrowed my intellectual thinking. Here, we applied strategic thinking and management to a variety of fields. In fact, strategy is something you do every day without even thinking about it when you are a CEO or the founder of an institution. But we can always use more tips and new ideas on how to improve our organizational performance and societal impact. By the end of the course, I definitely felt more confident and reassured about the strategic direction of my social enterprise.

 

Author: Essma Ben Hamida, Co-Founder and Executive Director, enda inter-arabe, Tunisia; Regional Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Middle East and North Africa, 2010

enda inter-arabe is the first and only best-practice microfinance institution in Tunisia and one of the highest rated in the world.