Saturday, October 20, 2012

Social Impact at Booth

Today, Booth’s social impact community is excited to be at the annual Net Impact conference at the Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago. Net Impact is a student group for MBAs committed to using their business skills to create positive social impact while driving economic value. Some of the areas of interest for members include corporate social responsibility, impact investing, international development, education, and public sector service. Net Impact co-chair, Sarah Walczewski shares highlights of the upcoming conference and explains the role of Social Impact at Booth.


Looking Forward to the Conference
As a co-chair of the group, I’m excited for this year’s conference because we’ve tripled in size over last year with 150 students expected to attend. It’s also the first year we’ve hosted a full-day Net Impact conference. There was so much interest from both students wanting to attend and people wanting to speak to Booth students, we couldn’t fit in all in half a day! We have secured some really great speakers, high-profile speakers such as Lois Scott, CFO of the City of Chicago, David Browning, Senior Vice-President of TechnoServe, and Eric Weinheimer (Booth ’94), President and CEO of The Cara Program.

My Path from Sustainability to Booth
Prior to Booth I worked with retail companies to understand and apply best practices in sustainability, and I found it incredibly rewarding to work with large companies to reduce their impact on the environment. However, I knew that sustainability is an enterprise-wide effort, and for me to become a better sustainability professional, it was important for me to find a program that would help me understand the objectives of leaders throughout the business, not just the CSR team. I’m in my second year at Booth, and I believe that my classes are giving me that perspective. In particular, taking the Social Entrepreneurship Lab course during my first year has helped me to get hands on experience in this area. My team worked with the US State Department and a Brazilan private equity firm to identify new business models for increasing electronic waste recycling. It was great learning first-hand about differences between doing business in the US and in Brazil, and the challenges of implementing sustainability in an emerging market. This was great experience to get before I began my summer internship at Deloitte where I got to apply my sustainability background in a consulting environment.

Exciting Changes at Booth
Last spring, Chicago Booth’s administration put a stake in the ground in support of social impact by launching the Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI). At the urging of faculty, alumni, and importantly, students, SEI was formed in order to support faculty research, alumni programming, and student group activities in the social sector. SEI is supporting cutting-edge research in the social sector by Booth faculty, who can later bring that perspective into the classroom. Additionally, Net Impact, along with other social impact-related student groups such as Emerging Markets Group, International Development Group, and Food, Environment, Agribusiness, and Development Group, now benefit from the support of SEI and greater recognition from the administration. We are really excited to see what’s coming next in social impact here at Chicago Booth!

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