Social empowerment by practice

As of November 1, 2013, the official debt of the United States government is $17.1 trillion. This amounts equal: $54,005 for every person living in the U.S, 103% of the U.S. gross domestic product and 541% of annual federal revenues.

A team from IIT has been selected as one of the 25 schools nationwide to participate in “Up to Us” competition. Up to Us is a competition sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), and Net Impact aiming to empowers students to educate their peers on how it could affect their economic opportunities, and what their generation can do to have a voice in promoting bipartisan solutions.

IIT students are planning and preparing to launch their campaign at the beginning of next semester (January 2013); the campaign will work extensively toward increasing students’ awareness and knowledge in several innovative tools and means such as social media engagement, visual experiences that will take place on campus as well as several events that will include speaker series, information sessions, civic engagement activities and various on campus performances. As a powerful tool to ensure that team members will be skilled and prepared to face the challenges to achieve their goals, team leaders attended the Net Impact Conference from October 24-26, 2013 in Silicon Valley, where the 24 other representative team leaders – including myself – met with several professionals working to solve today’s environmental and social problems.

At the Net Impact conference, Liz Maw, Net Impact Chief Executive Officer, articulated the following message: “Each of us has the capability to spark change – in ourselves, in the workplace, in the world – we came together for three inspired days of exploration, innovation, and experimentation.” Joined by nearly 3,000 doers and thinkers this Oct. 24-26 sought to engage participants with 350+ inspiring speakers breaking new ground in social and environmental change; spirited dialogue and inspiring TED-style talks punctuated the weekend, bringing this year’s theme, Change Starts Here to reality for all of us. The Net Impact conference also offered hundreds of opportunities to connect with interesting people old and new, and to forge lasting relationships. The conference successfully attracted a respectful number of change makers from different background including corporate leaders, non-profit visionaries, and innovative entrepreneurs. The conference had four keynotes and ideas:
– Change Starts with Leadership

– Change Starts with a Network,

– Change Starts with Dialogue, and

– Change Starts with an Idea.

The first day of the conference started with a talk under the label Change Starts with Leadership. The conference featured some of the best key leaders in engaging corporations in social engagement such as Denis Morrison whose leadership as Campbell’s CEO over the last two years positioned the company as a role model in social engagement and leadership. Morrison explained her strategy as follows: “Change requires stepping up and sometimes standing out” and that’s what allegedly Campbell’s was able to achieve by funding enormous projects to enhance the healthy lifestyle of its consumers from one side and sponsoring major farmers suppliers in developing country to enhance their lifestyles and quality of life.

The conference also featured one session titled Change Starts with a Network and included some of the most influential Network founders who aim for good: Premal Shah (Kiva), Nancy Lublin (, and Brent Schulkin (The Spring, Carrotmob). These speakers inspired and showed audience the power of mass when it is deployed for social benefit and navigated the post-consumer economy wrangling Big Data for big impact.

On the second day, Michael Brune (Sierra Club) and Ken Cohen (Exxon Mobil) engaged in a dynamic debate about the future of energy under the broad concept of Change Starts with Dialogue. The audience sat on the edge of its seat as these two public figures challenged each other to be accountable – to the public, to the markets, to future generations, to the audience, and each other. Change Starts with an Idea was the common theme among our closing keynoters on the third day: Kirsten Tobey (Revolution Foods), Chip Conley (Joie de Vivre Hotels, Airbnb), and Blake Mycoskie (TOMS). Each of these entrepreneurs were driven by a personal vision to change the lives of other.

Partners range from title sponsor, the Hult Prize. Leadership Sponsors include: Alcoa, Cisco, Banana Republic Intel and Microsoft. While executive sponsors include: 3M, Adobe, Avon, Dell, FedEx and Southwest. Associate sponsors range from Accenture, Best Buy, Chevrolet, Citi and Starbucks. In addition and in a more personalized way to enhance the experience and deepen the insight of UP to Us team leaders, training was provided by Up to Us team through daily interactive sessions and case studies where we had the opportunity to go through the mistakes other teams had made last semester and how to solve them should they happen to us on our campus.

The conference was the notion for a bigger impact and we have been fueled in energy. The Net Impact conference also mobilized our collective efforts and talents to create a platform to change the sentiment to a more aggressive – and bipartisan – one against the federal debt and its implications on students.

George Batah

IIT Stuart School of Business | Expected graduation, June 2014




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