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GSEI Hosts Bank of America Student Leaders

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For the past decade, Bank of America has devoted a portion of its resources to cultivating and developing the next generation of community leaders through its Student Leaders® Program. Over 200 high school Juniors and Seniors were recognized this year and travelled from their respective hometowns to Washington D.C. for the 2015 Bank of America Student Leader’s Summit which included a panel discussion at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

The panel “Maximizing Impact Across Sectors” was crafted to introduce students to the intersecting aspects of civic, social, and business leadership providing them with the knowledge and skills they will use throughout their life to create positive community change.  The discussion was moderated by Andrew Plepler, Bank of America’s Global Corporate Social Responsibility and Consumer Policy Executive, and included Leslie Crutchfield, Author, Social Entrepreneur, Senior Advisor at FSG- a global nonprofit strategy consulting firm and Senior Research Fellow for the Georgetown Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI); Rev. Seamus P. Finn, OMI, Chief of Faith Consistent Investing for the OIP Investment Trust and consultant for the USP JPIC office; Barbara Bush, CEO and Co-founder of Global Health Corps; and Paul Montiero, Director of AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America).

Plepler initiated the panel by inviting the audience and panelists to consider how social leaders can leverage assets and skills from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to achieve a greater impact in their respective fields. Drawing from their own experiences, each panelist detailed the nuances of merging cross-sector resources as a means of implementing an effective style of leadership. Plepler insisted that lasting improvements in the future will only come from collaboration; when the abilities of the non-profit, private, and government sectors coordinate to solve societal problems like civil rights, poverty, environmental conservation, and job creation. “None of these major global challenges will be solved by any sector individually,” said Plepler.

Agreeing with Plepler, Crutchfield credited the inspiration for her first book Forces For Good to the lack of existing texts that address how to run a business oriented nonprofit venture.  “There was a lot of tension in the ‘70s between private business and nonprofits, “said Crutchfield, “ but the most successful nonprofits of that era were ones that did not condemn private business, but rather embraced it.” Crutchfield mentioned that in order for a nonprofit to be successful in this day in age, it must understand how to leverage relationships with government and private industries as well as implement proven business tactics.

From the business side of the spectrum, Rev. Finn spoke about how the world is starting to understand the importance of morally conscious companies that engage in social enterprise rather than skim over nonprofit proposals. “The moral motivations behind private investing have the power to change the landscape of impactful social initiatives, “said Finn. He also proposed that change in the world will need to come from individual responsibility as well as collective efforts; citizens should strive to be the best they can be individually in order to strengthen collective efforts.

Bush added that the focus of her program, The Global Health Fellows, is to teach young leaders how to integrate skills learned from experiences in different sectors. “There is an abundance of science and technology in the world; enough to save the lives of millions of people. But these global health issues are not being solved due to a lack of managerial structure, “said Bush. Bush continued that the application of business is integral to providing health solutions to those who need them the most, particularly where proper infrastructure is lacking.

The AmeriCorps VISTA program plants volunteers with an entrepreneurial spirit into social initiatives to run the business side of their operations, helping initiatives to keep the doors open and to scale. As VISTA’s director, Montiero is dedicated to teaching the next generation of young business leaders how to solve social problems with business tactics. “Citizens have a responsibility to the community and nonprofits continue to grow through partnerships with the private sector,” said Montiero.

Plepler then engaged with each panelist to gauge his or her level of optimism for the future.

“A huge problem that has plagued social progress so far is that social enterprise is focused on solving complex problems with simple solutions,” said Crutchfield, “It is inspiring to see the next generation of leaders, young people, leading the conversation on how to merge the private, nonprofit, and government sectors to develop strategies that are adequately equipped to solve these complex problems.”