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GSEI Goes to SECON 2018

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By Mutiara Alam Addini (MIDP’18) and Bryan Vodicka (MBA’18)

How do you align sustainability with corporate imperatives to save money and drive new revenue? How can profit and purpose align? How can capitalism be harnessed to drive social impact?

These were the questions that students and staff from the Global Social Enterprise Initiative delved into at the 19th Annual Social Enterprise Conference (SECON) at Harvard University for a weekend of dialogue and debate around social enterprise. This year, the conference’s central question was “Mission vs Profit: What’s the Balance?”

The conference drew attendees with diverse backgrounds, indicating not only the groundswell of support for social enterprise, but the broad applicability and feasibility of the concepts it encompasses. Many entrepreneurs and investors were present along with students, professors and others from academia, as well as working professionals from social enterprises and corporations alike.

The conference kicked off with a keynote from Matt Forti, U.S. Managing Director of One Acre Fund, who emphasized the importance of policy advocacy to amplify the impact of the work on the ground. Attendees were then able to explore panels and sessions on a broad array of topics from building an enterprise, impact investing, innovation in social impact, and more.

A “System Mapping for Social Change” workshop explored ways to build an alliance of stakeholders to solve a social problem. The “From Interest to Deployment of Capital for Asset Owners” panel explained four key tools to address problems: financial capital, human capital, technical and network capital.

Nancy Pfund, Founder and Managing Partner of DBL Partners, gave an enlightening talk that noted how the new generation of iconic companies are driving healthy financial performance and attracting talent through their focus on impact.

The conference was closed with a conversation with Sheryl WuDunn, co-founder of FullSky Partners. She stressed the power of storytelling to make the emotional connection with the audience. Storytelling will carry us far in building connections and is not just for social entrepreneurs, but for anyone who has a unique story to tell.