14 February 2011
“FOMO” for Green MBAs at the Net Impact Conference
By Marcie Rash with Avary Kent, Jonah Nisenson, and Stephen Helliwell Four DUC Green MBA students and alumni attended the annual Net Impact conference last November. Net Impact is an international nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire, educate, and equip individuals to use the power of business to create a more socially and environmentally sustainable world. Net Impact comprises more than 15,000 professionals; graduate and MBA students; and undergraduates focused on corporate responsibility, social entrepreneurship, nonprofit management, international development, and environmental sustainability. Alumna Marcie Rash reports: This year for the first time, the Dominican’s School of Business and Leadership had a presence at the Net Impact Conference, held on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York. Avary Kent, Jonah Nisenson, Stephen Helliwell and I, chapter leaders of the DU Net Impact Chapter and alumnae and current students of the GreenMBA, travelled to Ithaca, NY for the three-day event, November 13-14, 2009. Upon receiving the largest conference itinerary I have ever seen, it was clear we were going to experience “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out). It was impossible to choose where to focus given the subject tracks,-- Corporate Impact, Design, Energy & Clean Technology, International & Community Development, Investing, Professional Development and Social Innovation--all with multiple appealing and diverse panel breakout sessions. Our strategy was to divide and conquer. Jonah (Co-President) sat in on a talk by economist John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, and was able to connect with him about speaking at a DU Net Impact event in the near future. He also was able to meet and chat with Stuart Hart, professor at Cornell and soon-to-be fellow at DUC. At a networking dinner, Jonah and a Cornell MBA student discussed employee-owned coops, a business model that was the focus of a lively and well-attended event that our chapter hosted last spring. The Cornell MBA student loved the conversation and it was apparent he had never had that kind of conversation with any other MBA student. Stephen (Events Lead) and Avary (Co-President) had an opportunity to share our systemic thinking tools with all the other chapter leaders by demonstrating the value and use of conversation mapping to help develop chapter value propositions. They received enthusiastic interest from other chapter leaders. Based on our background and professional experience, Avary and I were selected to attend the Green to Blue workshop facilitated by Stewart Rassier of the Saatchi & Saatchi S consulting group. We worked with other students and professionals representing various industries to share challenges, success stories and trends in activating sustainability throughout our organizations. For all four of us, the conference was an opportunity to explore activities beyond the Green MBA program that support socially and environmentally conscious business. It was a pleasure to connect with other MBAs (a record 2,500 attended) from mainstream business schools (Berkeley, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Thunderbird, etc.) and see that there is a student base there --though small in some cases-- that also seeks a new vision for American business. After all the networking, panel discussions, dinners, general conversations, and collaborations with other MBAs, it was clear that we weren’t the only ones experiencing FOMO. While socially and environmentally conscious business is weaved throughout the Green MBA curriculum, many of these MBAs were jealous that our entire program and curriculum revolves around environmental and social justice, since they frequently battle with their administration to offer even a single such course. Conferences provide a way to connect, reflect on where you and others have been and explore where you would like to go with your personal, professional and business strategies for the next year. This Net Impact conference was inspirational and reinforces our hopes that we are getting closer to seeing the power of business at a tipping point of positive change.