Bard College’s MBA in Sustainability program is launching a Net Impact chapter, the Bard Sustainable Business Club, and recently hosted Net Impact clubs from Baruch, Columbia and Fordham, as well as the New York City Professional chapter, in NYC for a round-table discussion on the state of NYC Net Impact and the challenges and future plans that regional members face.
Net Impact is an organization working to inspire a new generation of students and professionals to use their careers to tackle the world’s toughest social and environmental problems. Net Impact mobilizes these efforts through it’s local chapters in colleges, universities, and professional networks around the world where members learn about sustainability, corporate social responsibility, and social entrepreneurship, work on projects addressing these issues and build professional networks to impact change.
“The goal of tonight is to find a common ground [among Net Impact chapters],” said Eban Goodstein, director of the Bard MBA in Sustainability. Goodstein talked about the ever-increasing need for undergraduate and graduate institutions to develop Net Impact chapters to help effect change on their campuses, one of the organization’s primary goals.
“Net Impact is designed to engage all kinds of people, not just MBA in Sustainability students but all MBA students and encourage them to lobby for more sustainability courses,” said Goodstein.
Paul Campbell, Net Impact Director of Community Growth and Engagement, as well as Marie Casabonne, Net Impact Community Associate, conference called in to discuss the national engagement of Net Impact. Campbell noted that there are currently 311 Net Impact chapters and that ‘growth happens organically’ among undergraduate and graduate institutions. He highlighted the online career center and job board as well as the online member networking features that Net Impact offers its members.
Each chapter representative was given an opportunity to discuss their chapter’s strengths and challenges in recruiting members, hosting events, and creating a wider Net Impact reach among young professionals in the area.
The digital and social media aspect to Net Impact is something that all the NYC chapter representatives spoke positively about in engaging members and creating visibility not only about chapter events, but the goals of the organization.
Once a community is established, Sam Verrill of the NYC Professionals chapter recommended creating standing Net Impact meetings like a monthly happy hour for members to discuss upcoming events and projects.
“Knowing that something else is coming up [each month] is helpful for members to plan around,” said Verrill, “The NYC Professionals chapter is about 1500 members. There is a lot of turnover and people are at different stages of their careers. To that end, we have lots of programs and have to figure out ways for members to be heavily involved in the chapter.”
The sense of community and outreach is crucial to success of new Net Impact chapters. Steven Lictin MBA ’14, the co-president of the new Bard Sustainable Business Club, said that the goal of the Bard chapter is to have 40 members (both undergraduate and graduate students) by next year. To do so, the Bard chapter is holding a series of lunchtime conference call conversations with national sustainability leaders. Series such as these create a open dialogue around the topic of sustainability and allows for more people outside of the immediate Bard community to learn more about Net Impact and what their local chapter is doing.
Fordham Net Impact president, Nick Wejchert, believes that in involving each chapter’s college community in the case for sustainability will greatly increase Net Impact visibility. Creating urban agriculture projects, sustainable business plans competitions, and, again, monthly meet-ups to share ideas and success stories can all contribute to the goal of a more sustainable future.
“Starting companies that are focused in sustainability [is important]. New companies can move into the [sustainability] space easily now and be innovative from the get-go,” said Wejchert.
Hosting regional Net Impact conferences are an opportunity to engage not only other NYC chapters, but also community members, businesses and local professionals, which often are harder to reach out to because they are not directly involved with the college community.
Columbia University’s Net Impact, which is housed under the college’s School of International and Public Affairs’ Social Enterprise Club, holds the annual Social Enterprise Conference, a Net Impact event. Even though over 600 people attend, it still is a challenge to bring outside members to the conference.
“[Bringing in] interesting topics and speakers helps. For this year, we are thinking about using social media and special app to help engage [conference attendees],” said Jenny Tolan from the Columbia Social Enterprise Club, “We need to harness the Net Impact power of other schools, but also not just in one place, but the community as well.”
The chapter leaders agreed that concerted efforts to create citywide Net Impact events and competitions could increase visibility and effect of New York City’s Net Impact efforts and expand professional opportunities for all of their members. The desire collaborations between the Net Impact chapters help reinforce the organizations commitment to motivating young professionals to move toward a just and sustainable future.