How a social entrepreneur made a career out of creating inclusive spaces
July 10, 2017
When you first meet Anthony Harbour (MBA ’16), he’ll likely treat you like an old friend. Quick to offer a friendly smile and warm words, this Rotman alumnus has a way of disarming everyone around him.
Perhaps it’s not too surprising that Harbour has made of career of creating spaces where everyone — particularly marginalized groups — can feel included.
“My goal is to have people look beyond stereotypes and the assumptions they might have imposed on others,” he explains. “We need to give everyone opportunities and spaces where they feel safe to speak up, be heard and be seen.”
Today, this Los Angeles-based social entrepreneur is actively working to create more of these inclusive spaces. For his current project — developing and launching The Baldwin Gentlemen, a new social club for gay men of colour — Harbour is drawing on the insights and network he has acquired through the Rotman School of Management’s MBA program.
“I quickly realized that it was Rotman or bust. The School’s diverse student body and exchange programs would provide that strong international component that I was looking for.”
-Anthony Harbour (MBA ’16), Founder, The Baldwin Gentlemen
A few years ago, business school was not on his mind at all. Rather, Harbour’s primary attention was focused on projects where he — a gay, black man — and other commonly overlooked individuals could feel represented, safe and included.
After earning a political science and African American studies degree from the University of California at Berkeley, Harbour became involved in a number of projects related to social issues and advocacy. Most notably, he worked as a video producer for a documentary film company that examined social justice issues and organized the first annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day for the non-profit Food & Friends in Washington, D.C.
Eventually, Harbour landed a consultant role with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Yet, despite the steady career progression, he was anxious for a change. He yearned for a future that involved making a significant social impact, and included some international travel and entrepreneurship.
Recognizing that he was in need of some business acumen, he began exploring different MBA programs that could bring him closer to this goal.
“I quickly realized that it was Rotman or bust. The School’s diverse student body and exchange programs would provide that strong international component that I was looking for,” Harbour describes.
He was further intrigued by the School’s application process, which requires applicants to submit a video essay.
“It was clear to me that this is a school that does things a bit differently. They were looking beyond test scores and recognizing all the qualities that make a good leader. I knew that it was the right place for me.”
Making his mark
When Harbour arrived on campus, he immediately enjoyed participating in classes, clubs, case competitions and events. And he didn’t shy away from suggesting ways to improve the Rotman community.
Noticing the limited presence of LGBTQ voices at Rotman, the outspoken MBA student began recruiting support and forming a committee for a new group which would become The Letters Club, aimed at making inclusion a school-wide priority.
Before leaving on an exchange to Germany during his second hear of the MBA, Harbour organized a number of panel discussions, movie nights and workshops to raise awareness of the complex challenges many LGBTQ students and faculty face. Today, The Letters remains an active student group.
“We were opening up a dialogue about the issues,” he says. “The Letters Club was about sending a message that there is space for everyone here.”
Today, almost a year after graduation, Harbour is doing what he set out to do.
Putting his business school education to use, and drawing upon the advice of friends and mentors, he’s developed the business model behind The Baldwin Gentleman. This social group, which offers cultural and social excursions, provides opportunities for gay men of colour to meet and network.
Following a successful kick-off event, in Los Angeles, Harbour has managed to steadily grow the group’s membership and brand.
It’s a project that’s aimed at addressing a big, noticeable social gap.
“There weren’t many spaces me or my friends to comfortably gather. We weren’t finding places where we’d see people like us,” explains Harbour. “When this happens, it’s a signal that I need to do something.”