Monday, November 23, 2009

Net Impact Conference 2009 Update

I won't begin with a ritual apology as to why I've been lagging on my posts, but I will let you know that MBA plus a full-time gig is not an easy feat at all. Having said that, it is not impossible to do it all.

I got back a week ago from the 2009 Net Impact Conference at Cornell. Was it worth it? Yes, and shall I quantify it for you? Not right now. The GSM had a pretty large contingency in Ithaca---there were 27 of us total. I, along with another guy, were the only 2 working professional students present and the rest were from our full-time cohort. By the way, both of the UC Davis (Daytime & WP) chapters for Net Impact received the Gold and Silver distinction, respectively, in recognition of our commitment to CSR.

I had never been to Cornell up until the conference and I must attest to the beauty of the campus--it was simply gorgeous. The detailed architecture befitting of an ivy league campus sure beats the cookie-cutter boxes that spring up on many of the west-coast campuses I've visited. But that's besides the point. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Cornell, although there were some sessions  I could have easily skipped and missed nothing because the speakers just weren't as prepared as they should have been. Oh, and a special shout-out to fellow blogger, Andrew, from USC as I finally got a chance to meet him:) Don't forget to wander to his blog (I have it in my sidebar--to your right). Okay, where was I? Oh yeah, back to Net Impact. Here's a partial list of notable sessions I attended:

1. "Transforming Education: How to Use Your Business Skills to Make a Difference"

2. "Applied Learning: Enhancing Students’ Knowledge through Corporate and Nonprofit Partnership"

3. "More than Money with Mark Albion" (I have his book--which I forgot in my hotel room and he didn't get to sign it after all--bummer)

and my favorite:
4. "How to Generate Business Value through CSR"

As you can see, my focus is on creating value for the public sector. Although, I must mention that there were a huge variety of sessions that covered topics from consulting in the development sector, global social entrepreneurship, micro-finance, socially responsible investing, green energy/clean technology, among others that I could have easily chosen as well.  Some notable speakers included the CEO of GE, the founder of Honest Tea, Seth Goldman and one of the men who wrote the original business plan for Ben & Jerry's ice cream (and thankfully, we also got to taste much of it at a reception on our last night).  Nonetheless, my track in session 4 was my favorite for a couple of great reasons:

1) The speaker was my personal career coach who I had selected as part of the FREE session that Net Impact offered to all conference attendees. Spaces were limited, but lucky for me, I made my reservation online and got to speak with Jason Saul, the CEO of Mission Measurement, a leading Chicago-based social impact/managment consulting firm! I really thought I was going to be more nervous, but he was so down-to-earth and friendly, we ended up having a casual conversation over my career aspirations in the middle of the courtyard rather than in a confined room (where all the other coaching sessions were taking place).  I'm taking an organizational behavior class this quarter and in my book, I think this speaks profoundly on the type of leadership style he embraces and welcomes. 

2) Jason's presentation was by far the most captivating of the entire conference. Basically, the focus was on how to quantify social value by generating tangible metrics for evaluating performance and effort. In other words, companies shouldn't just be donating $$ to charities and consider that their only contribution to society. Companies can still maintain their bottom line by being socially responsible and telling their story in a way that connects people to their products/mission.

Our schedule for the conference was jam-packed with sessions, networking, cocktails, a career expo and more networking. I was pretty much pooped by 3pm each day and had to wind down with some hops and barley:) and oh yeah, sake bombs in downtown Ithaca. What did you expect from a bunch of MBAs all nestled in a college town for a weekend? I'm definitely looking forward to the 2010 Conferece at U of Michigan's Ross School of Business--yep, you heard it here first!

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