The Social Enterprise Symposium was created all because four University of Maryland students set out to answer the question: “How can business create positive change in the world?”
Year after year, the Center for Social Value Creation at the Robert H. Smith School of Business hosts the Social Enterprise Symposium to continue the discussion on businesses creating change in the world. This year the theme for the day was “Don’t Hold Back.”
This year’s symposium had a new feature, the “Morning Buzz,” a series of back-to-back solo presentations by thought leaders designed to pique interested and energize the audience, just as a morning coffee would.
The speaker’s at the morning buzz were Mrim Boutla, co-founder and managing partner, More than Money Careers; David Bornstein, Co-founder, Solutions Journalism Network; and Nicole Bassett, Director of Sustainability, PrAna. Rebecca Ratner, assistant dean for academic affairs-Undergraduate Programs, Smith School, moderated the session.
Boutla began, focusing her talk on busting three outdated beliefs:
- There are no jobs
- Impact job pay is dismal
- Follow your passion, the money will come
“My goal is to combat beliefs with data. That’s why I created More Than Money Careers,” Boutla, a cognitive neuroscientist turned career coach turned social entrepreneur, explained to the audience.
More than Money Careers is a certified Benefit Corporation that is dedicated to help emerging professionals get hired for internships and jobs that maximize impact and income.
Bornstein followed, talking about the idea of solutions journalism. He writes a weekly column focusing on solutions for the New York Times called “Fixes.”
“If we are in the business of letting people know what needs to be fixed, we need to be in the business of letting them now how it can be fixed,” he explained. “If you are covering a problem, you should cover the solution, too.”
Bornstein told the audience that historically journalists use data to find the worst, and then they write an investigative piece about it. At the Solutions Journalism Network they do the opposite: “We look for the positive deviants and we send in journalists to investigate how these positive results are being achieved. It’s a really interesting new application data mining.”
Bassett closed out the Morning Buzz session talking about her career journey, which eventually took her to her position with prAna, an apparel company with a focus on sustainability.
“What is sustainability?” she asked the audience. “We live in a biosphere, we are on a planet. Within that there is us - society, and nested inside that is business. We cannot have a healthy business if we do not have a healthy society and a healthy environment.”
Bassett explained that prAna’s customers thought the company was “super sustainable, and in reality we weren’t. So it was my job to close that gap. … There are a million things to do out there to become more sustainable, but you have to prioritize. We focused on three things: our product, the materials that run our business, and human beings.”
One way her company did that was to remove the plastic packaging that products were shipped in. After much research, the company opted to tie the clothing rather than wrapping it in a plastic bag. And this is just one change they are making, she explained. prAna has a 20-year sustainability plan.
“Be aware and be present in a way that you can walk your talk. Take any chance you have to live by your values,” she said.
To read more about the Social Enterprise Symposium or to learn more about the Center Social Value Creation, visit www.rhsmith.umd.edu/svc.