By Olivia Allen
On March 21st, six students from the Social Enterprise Institute traveled to Phoenix, Arizona to take part in the Clinton Global Initiative University conference (CGIU). Over the weekend, they presented projects, interacted with students from 89 countries around the globe. The conference was held at Arizona State University, an institution that echoed CGIU’s ethos of social justice, diversity, and inclusion. In his opening remarks, President Michael Crow remarked, “the vision for this institution is that we [Arizona State University] will not be successful from exclusion…we will build on our name on who we admit and what they achieve – we will be inclusive” regarding ASU’s commitment to expand college access to low-income families in Arizona.
Entry into the conference mandates that students make a commitment to social change in one of the following sectors: public health, poverty alleviation, education, environment and climate change, or peace and human rights. The CGI U Network also challenges students to attach timelines, implementation strategies, and impact measurement strategies to their early stage ideas, in order to ensure the sustainability of the project.
Representatives from the Social Enterprise Student Association were accepted into the conference upon their commitment to spread entrepreneurship education on the Northeastern campus. “As a representative for the Social Enterprise Institute Student Association, we went to CGI U in order to network with our peers, explore the topic of social enterprise education in more detail, and of course participate in important discussions regarding social impact. While the conversations and panels between experts was extremely beneficial and informative, it was even more amazing to collaborate with fellow students and discuss the issues that have been handed down to our generation. In a community of changemakers,” said Becky Darling, Communications Associate at SEI.
The remaining commitments from SEI students this year stemmed from the impact investment portfolio formed in preparation for the annual Tom Moore Investment Pitch in which students from “Voices of Development” and ENTR: 2201 “Impact Investing: Connecting Compassion and Capital” created an impact investing portfolio which was then presented to a panel of impact investors who prioritized social return over financial return.
SEI’s investment in Aakar Innovations, a project that seeks to empower women through employing them to produce and sell low-cost sanitary pads to women and girls in India was represented by Pia Tempestini, a student in the impact investing course. Secondly, an investment to purchase prescription glasses from VisionSpring, the nonprofit partner of Warby Parker to distribute to the developing world was represented by Olivia Allen and Miranda Beggin. Both projects, which were submitted under the women’s empowerment and economic empowerment categories respectively, hope to achieve a bifurcated impact of empowering small entrepreneurs through enterprise solutions while addressing a pressing social need.
Beyond presenting their projects, students attended workshops on civic engagement, impact measurement, and entrepreneurship education. They also attended a number of plenary sessions and panels led by President Bill Clinton, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Chelsea Clinton. The conference ended Saturday night with comedian Jimmy Kimmel interviewing the Clintons, an event that further fueled speculation on Secretary Clinton’s prospects for the 2016 presidential election.
Student travel and accommodations to the conference was generously sponsored Northeastern University’s Office of the Fellowships. Furthermore, the faculty support of Dr. Jonna Iacono and Dr. Paola Cesarini, whose work in establishing Northeastern as a CGIU campus through pledging $10,000 in funding to support student commitment-makers ensures that Northeastern commitment makers will be able to attend the conference each year.