Last Friday the Inspiring Capital team attended Columbia Business School’s Social Enterprise Conference: Millennials Rising: What’s Next for Sustainability? The conference was built for success. Opening with Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development in New York; closing with Al Gore, former Vice-President of the United States; and presenting an array of Social Enterprise practitioners from different functions and industries. Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen posed a question that seems to be the constant in the social sector: “I know this is the right thing to do, but how do I do it?”. Throughout the conference we heard from speakers how they have answered that question and how we can do it too. At the Impact Investing panel we learnt about the importance of aligning companies’ core business with their corporate responsibility initiatives in order to create sustainable value and benefit society. The way some financial institutions like Zurich Insurance Company do it is through their Responsible Investing, leveraging their financial knowledge and expertise and applying it to the social sector. The Innovator Showcase from The Center4 Social Innovation presented three social entrepreneurs that have used technology and education to tackle the disconnect between job opportunities and underserved populations. Their targets are adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Ultra Testing), individuals living in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro (Knack) and urban women going into tech (Digital Undivided). During the workshop about Innovative Revenue Models for Social Impact, Inspiring Capital COO & CSO Yael Silverstein and Client Engagement Manager Kate Canfield led a session focused on the Business Model Canvas, a tool used for Business Model Generation. Yael introduced the model as a tool to better structure and analyze a business plan for a social entrepreneur. The group split up to work with four different entrepreneurs and help them think about their business with this framework. Our group, led by Kate, worked with Brian Jones and Kin Travel in identifying potential markets and services, and possible threats for the business. Finally, Al Gore talked about taking responsibility for the environmental issues that we have created and the need to stop delaying action and putting a price on carbon in markets.

It’s always inspiring to hear from other practitioners from the social enterprise sector. Furthermore, in this conference, it was interesting to challenge the idealism of social good and bring pragmatism and plans of action to generate the impact that we want to have in the world. As Al Gore said: “all you need is the will to act, and that’s a renewable resource.”

- Juanita Molano, 2014 MBA Fellow