On Friday February 15th, Net Impact gathered the socially conscious among us for the Social Impact Summit at Gleacher. The theme of the Summit this year was Social Intrapreneurship: Creating Impact for Society and Value for your Employer. Why is this important? As one of the moderators highlighted, most of us as we graduate will not work for ourselves – over 96% according to the 2018 FT Employment Report. This summit identified how we can make an impact on issues we are passionate about, within the confines of a corporate role.
The Summit consisted of three panels followed by a Keynote speech by Monali Shah, Google’s Head of Industry Solutions for Smart Cities and Urban Mobility. The first panel, titled Setting the Stage: What is Social Intrapreneurship, focused on the practicalities of intrapreneurship – finding a sponsor, understanding the current landscape (‘Why are things the way they are?’) and continuing to be passionate and dedicated to the end goal. The panelists also discussed ‘doing well by doing good’ – pursuing social impact goals while enhancing the workplace (and the bottom line) with your efforts. The second panel focused on Equity and Inclusion – the definition and how to foster it in a professional setting. The third panel introduced Sustainability into the conversation – the sustainability of a nascent initiative, as well as fostering initiatives focused on sustainability. The speakers across panels talked across their experiences, bringing to life their ‘side hustles’ at work to the forefront. One Booth alum from Morningstar who had published a report on gender in fund management highlighted the step-by-step nature of building an initiative, slowly connecting the dots across an organization to formalize it.
The keynote speaker, Monali Shah, outlined her career journey, showing clear passion for using technology to create a more equitable and sustainable society. With stints at companies large and small, such as Navteq, Nokia and Here, she emphasized creating roles for herself and carving out opportunities. She noted that we are often our biggest barriers to success and urged all present to initiate and create. On smart cities, she noted that the three challenges were congestion, inequity and lack of sustainability and that the primary factor limiting upward mobility is commute time, particularly for minority communities. Ms. Shah worked on changing this using Google Maps in collaboration with the Chicago Department of Transport, establishing visibility of projects and clear goals for the body. Ms. Shah incidentally started Net Impact while at Booth, passing on the reins upon graduating to Caroline Grossman, who is currently a faculty member at the Rustandy Centre.
Overall, the Summit was illuminating and inspiring for anyone who seeks to incorporate social impact into their professional lives but can’t quite figure out how (this author included). As always, the Booth alumni were impressive, providing both the inspiration and the roadmap to making that change. I look forward to seeing this Summit expand in the future!