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Social Enterprise topics are embedded in various student conferences at Columbia Business School. The first conference at the beginning of each academic year is the Annual Social Enterprise Conference, jointly organized by the Social Enterprise Club, International Development Club, Green Business Club, and the Social Enterprise Program. This event brings together industry leaders, professionals, academics, students, and alumni to share best practices and engender new ideas surrounding the intersection of business and society.

Other MBA students groups that have offered conferences with social enterprise content include: Columbia Women in Business, Latin American Business Association, the Energy Club, and South Asian Business Association. In addition, students attend conferences held by other areas of Columbia University including the Earth Institute and the School of International and Public Affairs, as well as external conferences organized by Net Impact, and Business for Social Responsibility to name a few.

Millennials Rising: What's Next for Sustainability?- October 31, 2014

We are living in promising but turbulent times. Never before has there been such interest in harnessing innovation to find sustainable solutions for communities and the environment, but never have the problems been more urgent, complex or challenging. While more business leaders are pursuing sustainable strategies, what can be done to accelerate this change and harness the talents of millennials as future sustainable leaders to ensure they realize this potential? What can be done to sustain interest in solving social and environmental issues, sustain funding for these efforts, and sustain the pipeline of social entrepreneurs leading these changes? Help spark the conversation on driving sustainable change beyond the new millennium:

  • Sustainable Practices: How are companies successfully ingraining sustainability into the development of their corporate strategy and business practices?
  • Sustainable Financial Models: What are the challenges to harnessing the power of capital markets to create sustainable impact for the global community and environment?
  • Sustainable Behaviors: How can design thinking, new behavioral models, and socially-conscious marketing create the right incentives for lasting structural and systems-wide changes?
    Featuring Keynote Speakers: Al Gore, Former Vice President, and Alicia Glen, NYC Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development


Engaging Customers and Clients in Social Change - October 4, 2013


Society will never change unless we collectively want it to. Social entrepreneurs may have great visions for transforming the world, but little can be accomplished without energizing and motivating those on the receiving end of change efforts: the clients and customers of social enterprises. While lessons can be learned from marketers and social media practitioners, there are unique challenges in adapting these ideas to solving social and environmental problems. Organizations ranging from multinational corporations to social venture startups need to grapple with questions such as:

  • How best to compel customers to consider the social footprints of their purchases, and leverage the power of the consumer for social good
  • How to engage at the grassroots level to translate individual ideas and feedback into action and movements
  • How best to create demand for – and deliver – socially useful products and services that benefit underserved communities and the environment
    By uniting industry experts, thought leaders and practitioners, the 2013 Social Enterprise Conference will delve deeper into the ways leaders and managers can use strategy as a tool to maximize social change.



Aligning Strategy to Maximize Impact – October 5, 2012

Ranging from startups to programs embedded in multinational organizations, social enterprise continues to thrive despite complex political and economic environments. Companies and organizations increasingly need to develop strategies internally and across their sectors to mobilize action and tackle major social and environmental issues. While traditional corporate strategy focuses on long-term profit maximization, more forward-thinking organizations are incorporating a broader spectrum of social gains into their organizational strategies. Keynote speakers include: Paul Farmer, Founding Director, Partners In Health; Fernando Fabre, President, Endeavor Global; Richard Hall, Director-Global Strategic Alliances, Intel Corporation; Jennifer Crozier, Vice President of Global Citizenship Initiatives, IBM; and Caroline Roan, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility & Reputation, Pfizer. More information about the 2012 Social Enterprise Conference at Columbia Business School is available online, and on the Social Enterprise conference blog.

Social Innovation in a Networked World – October 7, 2011

As we move into the second decade of the new millennium, we live in an increasingly networked world powered by technological innovations that are redefining connectedness and transforming business. For social enterprise, these changes have the potential to produce groundbreaking business models, introduce innovative approaches for scaling enterprises, reach new audiences and mobilize additional resources to improve society. Keynote speakers include Leymah Gbowee,Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and Founder and Executive Director, The Women Peace and SecurityNetwork Africa (WIPSEN–Africa), with Harold Evans, Editor at Large, Thomson Reuters. More information about the 2011 Social Enterprise Conference at Columbia Business School is available online.

Redefining Return: Financing and Scaling Social Innovation – October 8, 2010

Where will the next phase of social innovation come from? How will social impact investors uncover new opportunities? And what new financing models will help innovative social ventures to grow, particularly given tough economic times? Keynote speakers include: Peter Blom, CEO & Chairman, Triodos Bank Group; Robert Annibale, Global Director of Citi Microfinance and Community Development; and Raj Shah, USAID. More information about the 2010 Social Enterprise Conference at Columbia Business School is available online, and on the Social Enterprise conference blog.

From Vision to Practice – October 9, 2009

The 2009 Social Enterprise conference addressed how organizations can increase their strength not just to ride through the global economic downturn, but more importantly to emerge stronger, by exploring the broad visioning process to specific practices. Keynote speakers include: Craig Barrett, former CEO and Chair of Intel; Thomas Gensemer, Managing Partner of Blue State Digital; and Jimmy Wales, cofounder of Wikipedia.

The Moment of NOW: Market Innovations in Social Enterprise – October 24, 2008

The 2008 Social Enterprise conference recognized that people working in every sector are capable of generating smart solutions to social and environmental problems by the application of business acumen. The conference explored how social enterprise principles and practices are being put into action. Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Electric Corporation, received the 2008 Botwinick Prize in Business Ethics and gave the keynote address.

Creating Value – October 26, 2007

The 2007 Social Enterprise conference provided a forum for speakers and attendees to redefine how they create value in business and in society. Topics covered included the new challenges of philanthropy, the impact of green buildings on community development, and how best to encourage entrepreneurship in the developing world. Patrick Cescau, Group Chief Executive of the combined Unilever PLC and Unilever N.V., gave the keynote address.

Raising the Bar – October 6, 2006

The 2006 Social Enterprise conference featured a diverse group of leaders from all sectors who are "raising the bar" and defining success in terms of social and environmental benefits as well as financial returns. The conference opened with a plenary session, "Creative Approaches to Global Health Problems," followed by breakout sessions in three topic areas: Social and Environmental Impact, Leadership and Ethics, and Social Capital Markets. Jim Sinegal, President and CEO of Costco Wholesale Corporation, gave the afternoon keynote address.

Business and Society: Building A Sustainable Future – October 7, 2005

The 2005 Social Enterprise conference featured a keynote address by Joan Bavaria, Founding President and CEO of Trillium Asset Management. Ms. Bavaria also received the School's Benjamin Botwinick Prize in Business Ethics. The all-day event highlighted initiatives within the corporate, nonprofit and public sectors to generate financial, social, and environmental wealth through innovative and sustainable business practices and partnerships. Please visit news for more information on speakers and panel topics.

Net Impact Conference - November 11 - 14, 2004

Columbia Business School hosted the annual Net Impact Conference in 2004. Around 1,400 MBA students, alumni, and professionals from around the world attended.

The conference featured keynotes by CEOs including: Orin Smith of Starbucks, Julius Walls, Jr., of Greyston Bakery, Jeffrey Hollender of Seventh Generation, Gary Erickson of Clif Bar, and Thomas M. Chappell of Tom's of Maine. Events during this three day conference explored topics including globalization and emerging markets, social entrepreneurship, environmental sustainability and energy, corporate social responsibility, and nonprofit and community development. Please visit the archived conference website and news for information on speakers and panel topics.

Links to Past Social Enterprise Conferences


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