SEI Students Commit to Social Change at the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative University Conference

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.