Sara Standish

Next Generation of Business Leaders ?Bridge the Gap?: 2005 Net Impact Conference

This year’s Net Impact Conference, held at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business was by all accounts a huge success. Here are some quick stats:
? Over 1,400 participants from schools across the U.S. and internationally
? Over 200 speakers on approximately 75 panels
? 6 keynotes including: Al Gore, Generation Asset Management; Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield Farm; VJ Joshi, HP; Judy Vredenburgh, Big Brothers Big Sisters; Greg Steltenpohl, Adina World Beat Beverages / Interra Project; and Kellie McElhaney, UC Berkeley–Haas.

Day One: The event kicked off with a strong keynote from Al Gore, who discussed the importance of integrating sustainability into business practice. Drawing from his experience with Generation Asset Management, he likened current risk management to the visible spectrum; noting that while we continue to assume that the narrow band of financial information used to value companies is sufficient, we can no longer afford to ignore the broader spectrum of global trends.

I spent much of the first day at the Expo center discussing WRI’s, Development through Enterprise, and New Ventures with over 50 other companies and nonprofits including, Ashoka, GE Energy, KIPP, Niman Ranch, and TerraPass. I was inspired and humbled by the smart, engaging questions that were asked; I hope many of the MBAs that I talked with will write in and share their experiences with BOP and SME development!

And, since I missed some amazing panels on topics such as, ?Engineering and Business Innovation?, ?Emerging Market Strategies of Corporations?, ?Reducing Global Poverty through Business and Social Entrepreneurship? and so many more, participants, please write in and tell us what was discussed!

Day two: I ventured into the classroom attending panels on, ?Financing Business Development in Emerging Markets? and ?Public Sector Helping the Private Sector?. Of particular note, a panel on entrepreneurial technology approaches to poverty alleviation highlighted 4 outstanding business models, such as Mobile Media which employs and trains at-risk young people to use PDAs to gather basic information and needs of people that have no official government records. Recently, the organization–a social venture started at Stanford–wrapped up a pilot in Brazil, where an estimated 20 million people are ?invisibles?, a population underserved by society. While providing local youth employment, Mobile Media is using technology to gather information that can be used by governments, NGOs and companies to better address the needs this hidden population.

Congratulations to the Stanford GSB students and Net Impact staff that made this possible. Next year’s host – Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management? has a tough act to follow, but they seem up to the challenge!