Monday, November 24, 2008

DiaBlog: Net Impact

I wasn't able to attend much of Net Impact this year, but several students from Colorado State reported back that the event at Wharton was better than ever. Below are some comments from Joseph Darnell and Mitesh Gala about this year's annual conference:

Q: What were the most interesting sessions you attended for BOPreneurs?
Mitesh: "Definitely the one on Socially Responsible Investing - There were three venture firms, including Innosight Ventures, headed by Clayton Christensen. They have invested in a laundry kiosk business in Bangalore."
Joseph: The biomimicry workshop was by far the most interesting panel I attended. I also thought the 'Hype vs. Reality: Impact and Potential of Social Enterprises in International Development' was particularly enlightening, and very relevant for any aspiring BOPreneur." (For Matt Austin's blog on this panel, click here)

Q: What were the key points you remember from these sessions?
Mitesh: "There doesn't have to be a trade-off between social business vs. traditional business. Both businesses are run on or evaluated on their bottom lines by the investors. However, investors use a more advanced evaluation tool to measure social impact and its effect on the bottom line, for instance, using a 'balanced scorecard' tool."
Joseph: "Some of the other business strategy applications from the world of nature were nearly mind-blowing. I liked insights like “optimize rather than maximize”, “use free energy”, and “ focus on shape, rather than material”. There was also talk of building within “ecological building codes” as opposed to the manmade versions we’ve invented. I really liked the business applications; Industry Biomes, Ecosystem Succession (as related to market entry) and Market Dietary Strategy (organism doesn’t define it’s food, it’s food defines the organism)."

Q: How are current global financial worries impacting MBAs' interest in sustainability and, more specifically, BOP work?
Joseph: "I think the interest in sustainability as a value add is only being heightened by the financial crisis. I think that it’s a way for MBAs to make themselves more attractive to employers. As for the BOP, it seems that interest in 'emerging markets' hasn’t waned."
Mitesh: "The conference had more panels on social businesses compared to last year and so it is hard to relate current financial worries with MBA's interest. There is still a lot more interest in CSR and Green technology, than in BOP work."

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