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How are you making history? Business as a force for good in the world

Craig Zelizer

November 3, 2016

This week I am very pleased to be attending, speaking and exhibiting at the 2016 Net Impact Conference in Philadelphia. The title of this year's event is "Make History" to celebrate the potential of each of the attendees to make history and change the world. Net Impact is a wonderful global network organization of students and professionals who strive to use "business skills in support of various social and environmental causes."


The organization has over 300 volunteer chapters around the world and over 100,000 members and has been on one of the driving forces behind the business for social impact movement. The organization is engaged in many activities to help students, professionals and others work for active change in diverse sectors. These include the annual conference (which attract thousands), fellowship programs for students to work on racial equity, justice, healthy food and impact design among other things. They also have wonderful mentorship programs encouraging students and younger professionals to engage in careers in change.

The program has over 200 speakers from around the world, ranging from heads of major companies, to nonprofit leaders, to students, to impact investors. The scope of the program is a bit dizzying and some might question what binds this all together when there are participants from Campbell Soup Company, Engineering for Change, the Hult Prize, Unilever, World Wildlife Fund and many others. There are students from 150 different universities and over 500 professionals. The speakers include a wild array of people including one of the co-founder os of the Black Lives Matter Movement, leadership from the White House, as well as senior leaders from mainstream corporations such as Walmart, Toyota as well as emerging startups. 

Net Impact is part of the global movement of business for change and positive impact. It is clear to me and the participants that business of all sizes, sectors and locations is increasingly exploring how to make a positive impact on societies. While some of this may still be "green washing" or "CRS washing", to appeal more to the public relations end of a company seeking to show it is doing well, but in reality might be having a horrible environmental record, poor treatment of workers, not thinking about the end life cycle of the products, many businesses are seeking to do well and do good at the same time. And hopefully for those that still need a strong push to do go beyond green or peacewashing organizations like Net Impact and the many members will create a radical change in how the global economy functions.

Of course the challenge are immense, such as increasing global inequality between and within countries, overconsumption of planetary resource, a lack of economic opportunity for hundreds of millions (estimates are the world needs to create 600 million new jobs for youth alone in the next decade), the increasing onset of the gig economy and loss of stable benefits and incomes and much more. I don't want to be naive and say that things are going great as they aren't.

I'm truly looking forward to participating this year, contributing to the conversation about careers in change (a central focus of PCDN), networking and learning. In addition to exhibiting and letting the NI community know about PCDN, I will be participating in two sessions. IMG_0358One on building a career in international development, which is one of the key areas I've been researching and working on for the past two decades, under the larger rubric of careers in change.


The second is on work life balance, the personal side to changing the world. This is an essential topic that is all too often overlooked by changemakers. IMG_0357There is a fundamental risk of burning out while striving to make the world a better place. However if we don't take care of ourselves it can be very challenging to sustain meaningful work.


Thankfully the conference has interactive sessions, workshops, panels and informal networking time. As many people know often the most valuable learning at conferences takes place in the coffee breaks, spontaneous interactions, and connections. 

What is particularly exciting about the conference is the convening of diverse sectors, and the many younger professionals who are here to share their wisdom and find the right path for their career of change.

Stay tuned from a few blogs from the conference, lots of photos on PCDN's social media channels and hopefully some interviews or facebook live sessions with some of the inspiring attendees.

Please check out Net Impact as I say to thousands of people I've advised in careers in change, it is important to be engaged in a community of change and find one's tribe. Hopefully for many of you Net Impact will be one one the places you go for inspiration.

How are you making history today?


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