Emily Celano, Project Manager for EFI Global, Inc. and Net Impact Boston Events Committee Member, jetted off to Minneapolis for the 2014 Net Impact Conference in November. Here she shares a recap of what happened at the conference and, for those of you who weren’t able to go, links to some of the great content. Enjoy!
This year’s Net Impact Conference centered around the theme of Breaking Boundaries. The Conference began on Thursday afternoon, November 6th, with optional off-site business tours, field trips, and Pre-Conference Boot Camps open to all conference attendees as a way to gain insight into sustainability efforts within the city of Minneapolis and offer the chance to meet others interested in a specific topic or sector of the social and environmental impact space. In addition, a Chapter Leader Session was held for Leadership Team members of the Undergraduate, Graduate, and Professional chapters to connect with each other and discuss ways to provide meaningful involvement opportunities for Net Impact members and the broader impact community. The Boston Professional Chapter Leadership Team were well represented at the Chapter Leader Session, even going as far as acting out some of their ideas as part of a group improvisation – who knew Ellen Shea would make such a talented air steward!
Thursday evening’s Keynote focused on the concept of Paradigm Shift. We had the opportunity to hear from Betsy Hodges, the Mayor of the City of Minneapolis; Liz Maw, Chief Executive Officer of Net Impact; and Dan Pallotta, Founder and President of Advertising for Humanity and the Charity Defense Council. During this session, Liz Maw congratulated the undergraduate, graduate and professional chapters of the year and Kevin Hart and Melissa Small went up on stage to collect the award for the Professional Chapter of the Year – a very proud moment for Net Impact Boston members! Dan Pallotta, a fellow Bostonian, was a hugely inspiring speaker and set the tone and energy for the rest of the conference. The main point of his keynote is the need to transform how we think about and invest in non-profit organizations in order to help them grow and better address today’s social and economic challenges. Dan Pallotta’s keynote is not available online; however, you can check out his TED talk to learn about his perspective.
Friday morning’s Keynote focused on the concept of Transformative Leadership. We had the opportunity to hear from Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer of Unilever, who spoke to the audience before participating in a Q&A with Joel Makower, Chairman & Executive Editor of Greenbiz Group. Paul Polman spoke passionately about the importance of caring more about others than of yourself; having a longer term perspective in decision-making; the power of forming partnerships and collaboration across sectors and business lines; and moving to a circular economy to encourage less waste, more efficiency of resources and new business models. At the core of his message was the need for change and he said “if the world hasn’t changed, how can I look my children in the eye.” For more inspiration, check out the video of the keynote here.
The Breakout Sessions on Friday and Saturday included a mix of panels, workshops, and Ted-style talks within the following areas of environmental and social impact: Career & Professional Development; Community Development; Corporate Impact; Energy & Clean Tech; Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise; Environment and Natural Resources; Finance & Investing; International Development; Nonprofit & Public Sector Innovation; and Sustainable Food and Agriculture. The program provided conference attendees with an enormous volume of information, insight and exposure to the panelists and other attendees.
Evening activities included group no-host dinners at a local restaurant on Thursday and Friday evenings; an undergraduate networking event, regional happy hours for the graduate student chapters, and a reception for the Professional Chapters on Friday evening; and a closing party for all attendees on Saturday evening to socialize and foster relationships. The conference also included a service activity during which over 250 3M Solar Lamps for Global Education were built, Mentor Office Hours to have one-on-one conversations with a speaker or career coach and a Food should Taste Good and Do Good Ideation Challenge Competition.
Saturday morning’s Keynote focused on the concept of Debating the Future of Food. We had the opportunity to hear from Marc Gunther, Editor at large of Guardian Sustainable Business US; M. Jahi Chappell, Director of Agroecology and Agriculture Policy at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Natalie DiNicola, Vice President of Sustainability and Signature Partnerships at Monsanto. Considering the nature of the topic under discussion, it is not surprising that the discussion was somewhat tense and the speakers tackled challenging questions from the audience. A key takeaway from the keynote is that Agroecology offers an alternative to the input-heavy, pesticide-reliant traditional food system by taking a whole-systems approach to agriculture and food systems development. Check out the video from Saturday morning’s keynote here.
Saturday evening’s Keynote focused on the concept of Leaving Boundaries Behind. We had the opportunity to hear from three women who have tackled, broken and left boundaries far behind them. Sheryl WuDunn, Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist and Co-Author of a Path Appears; Temple Grandin, Professor of Animal Sciences, Colorado State University; and Shazi Visram, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Happy Family Brands. A few key takeaways from this keynote included being open-minded, dreaming big and using “no” to drive getting to “yes”, having a strong mission and purpose, and feeding your soul to keep your spark alive. Check out the videos from Saturday evening’s keynote here.
It was an action-packed three days of inspiring moments and new ideas and I left feeling energized and better connected within the impact community. If you weren’t able to attend the conference, check out the videos from the event on the Net Impact website and mark the dates of next year’s conference on your calendars: November 5-7, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.