The changing scene of social impact
By Ahalya Vijay
Net Impact Week is a series of events organized by the Net Impact Club at Kellogg to expose members of the Kellogg community to the world of social impact. The focus of this year’s Net Impact Week was “Inspiring Growth and Impact.”
My main learning from Net Impact Week was that social impact can’t happen in a vacuum. Partnerships with for-profit companies and access to stable sources of financial capital are key to making a sustained impact. Transferring expertise or skills isn’t simply a matter of flying from one country to the next; it takes time to immerse yourself in the culture of the destination country and to start adding value that is tailored to what people actually need. In order to have the time to actually make an effective impact, social entrepreneurs require access to capital and resources.
The world is changing to accommodate these two needs.
Amit Bouri, CEO of the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), visited Kellogg to discuss his organization and the role of impact investing in driving social impact. He has developed an evolving catalogue of common metrics on impact performance called IRIS. Being able to effectively measure the performance of any specific impact-related venture will allow investors to better understand what exactly they are funding. How many people is the venture benefiting? How much is the venture contributing to improving the lives of community members? IRIS hopes to be able to answer these questions — or at least provide a common framework that investors and social enterprises can use to do so.
GIIN’s perspective is that the dollars going into social enterprises should be treated the same way as dollars that go into the private sector: Investors need to understand what they are investing in so they can continue sending money where it is most needed.
While it is true that enterprises need to improve their measurement of impact, they actually need to have impact first. In order to do this, enterprises need access to capital.
That’s where Tasha Seitz comes in. She is the chief investment officer of Impact Engine, a social impact incubator in Chicago. She conducted an impact investing bootcamp, introducing Kellogg students to a spectrum of investing strategies used in the social impact space.
One interesting point she made was that large private sector companies are changing their definitions of corporate social responsibility and that they are looking at their social impact from the perspective of supporting their business strategy and operations. Emily Gipple ’15, did a good job of explaining this new definition of corporate social responsibility in her TEDx talk on campus earlier this year.
Net Impact Week was capped off by a standing-room-only event: The Role of the Private Sector in Creating Lasting Social Change. At this event, Dean Sally Blount, accompanied by some of Kellogg’s most renowned professors, including Harry Kraemer, Paul Christensen and Linda Darragh, spoke about the convergence of the private sector and social impact. The panel emphasized the need for increased financial capital in the space, as well as the need for investors to measure investments using a combination of financial and social returns. Dean Blount reiterated that we, as future business leaders, will bring about this change and will develop innovative solutions to society’s most pressing problems.
So did we solve major world issues during Net Impact Week? No. But we started a discussion around the creation of new models that can increase the growth of impact disruptive social enterprises can have. Such a conversation is important because in many developing countries and underserved communities, social enterprises are tackling gaps in government service delivery that are critical drivers of economic development.
Interested in joining the discussion? Join the Net Impact Club at Kellogg to start talking.
Ahalya Vijay is a first-year student in the MMM program at Kellogg. Prior to Kellogg, she did economic development work with the South African government and management consulting in the U.S. and Canada.