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Spring 2011 Newsletter

Bruce Usher to Serve as Co-Director of the SEP

The Social Enterprise Program is pleased to announce that Bruce Usher, adjunct professor of finance and executive-in-residence at Columbia Business School, will serve as the Program's co-director, alongside Professor Ray Fisman.

In this new role, Professor Usher will be responsible for developing external connections and support for the Program and working in partnership with Professor Fisman and the SEP staff to design and implement program strategy. Professor Fisman will retain responsibilities for curriculum, research, advising students, and event programming as well as general SEP administrative oversight.

"Our students have the potential to create incredible change through social enterprise. I am excited about the opportunity to build on the many accomplishments of the SEP by focusing on strengthening relationships with alumni and the business community," said Professor Usher, who has been teaching at the School since 2002. "I look forward to working with students, alumni, the Advisory Board, supporters, Ray, and the SEP team to promote the SEP as the leading program of its kind."

"My background is mainly research; Bruce's is primarily practice. This makes us ideal complements for leading SEP in its research-meets-practice mission," said Professor Fisman.

Professor Usher developed and teaches the Carbon Finance and the Finance & Sustainability courses in the MBA program. The objective of both courses is to utilize financial tools to create sustainable value for society.

Usher was formerly CEO of EcoSecurities Group plc from 2002 to 2009, during which time he built it into the world's largest public carbon credit company. EcoSecurities structures and guides greenhouse gas emission reduction projects through the Kyoto Protocol, acting as principal intermediary between the projects and the buyers of carbon credits. Usher took EcoSecurities through its only private funding round, followed by an IPO, a secondary public placement and strategic investment, and the sale of the entire company to JP Morgan in December 2009.

 

Ben Powell ’05 Honored as Social Enterprise Alumnus Innovator

By Kimberly Parker

The Social Enterprise Program honored Ben Powell ’05 of Agora Partnerships as the inaugural recipient of the Social Enterprise Alumnus Innovator award. This honor is awarded to a Columbia Business School alumnus/a who has innovatively applied business ideas, principles, or tools to make a social or environmental impact. Powell is the founder and managing partner of Agora Partnerships, a nonprofit organization that works with small and growing businesses to fight poverty in the world's poorest communities. The award was presented at the 2011 Annual Social Enterprise Reception on February 9.

Nominations for the award came from fellow alumni, employers, and friends of the Social Enterprise Program, and the nominees comprised a group of extraordinary and inspirational innovators. The advisory board of the SEP reviewed the nominees and then selected Powell as this year's Alumnus Innovator. In his keynote speech, Powell spoke of the assistance he received from professors and fellow students in starting his venture and the continuous support from the SEP through summer fellowships and international development pro bono consulting projects.

"I was very honored to get the award, because Agora has been such a joint effort of people at Columbia," Powell said. The organization draws on the School's natural strengths — finance, investment, and social enterprise, he said.

It was in a Columbia Business School class that Powell wrote the business plan for Agora Partnerships, and he launched the venture with the help and advice from more than two dozen fellow students. Agora works with impact entrepreneurs — entrepreneurs whose businesses make strong, positive contributions to their communities, such as creating jobs for low-income workers and working to protect the environment. By targeting businesses in the missing middle — businesses too large for microfinance but too small to attract traditional growth capital sources — Agora works to fill a gap in financing and make a definitive, positive impact on local economies.

Furthermore, Powell aspires to democratize access to opportunity in developing countries and to build a culture of impact entrepreneurship in Central America. Agora Partnerships works in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras, with plans to expand to Mexico, and has provided business advice to more than 400 small and growing businesses and helped 25 companies obtain financing. Through its strategic initiatives, Agora is continuously working to find new and innovative ways to contribute, and to extend opportunity to anyone with the ambition to make a positive social impact.

The Social Enterprise Alumnus Innovator Award will be an annual prize awarded at the Social Enterprise Annual Reception every year. The next reception will be held in February 2012, and solicitations for nominations will begin in November.

 

Second Annual Social Enterprise Leadership Forum Draws in More Than 100 Healthcare Leaders

The SEP held its second annual Social Enterprise Leadership Forum, focusing on the American Healthcare Landscape in 2014, on April 28. The event attracted an audience of profit-focused and philanthropic health care investors, entrepreneurs, and top administrators from area hospitals, service organizations, industry, and government.

Mark McClellan, director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform, senior fellow in Economic Studies, and the Leonard D. Schaeffer Chair in Health Policy Studies at the Brookings Institute, delivered the keynote presentation, "The Pathway to Accountable Care." Speakers included two former administrators of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: McClellan and Tom Scully, now general partner of Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe. Other featured speakers included: Bob Kocher, director of the McKinsey Center for US Health System Reform and former special assistant to the president for Healthcare and Economic Policy; Michael Dowling, president and CEO of North Shore-LIJ Health System; and Thomas D'Aunno, professor of health policy and management at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Read the Leadership Forum's agenda.

The Leadership Forum convened guests for a high-level discussion on the practicalities of where healthcare is headed in New York and throughout the country. The event sought to explore questions and ideas in the healthcare field, including: the future of Medicare; the future of healthcare investment; and the impact of national reforms on local health services.

The inaugural forum was held in May 2010 and centered on education: Measuring and Creating Excellence in Schools.

 

SEP in the News

Banking On Social Enterprise
Hermes — May 2, 2011
Managing a successful turnaround was just the first step for Neighborhood Trust CEO Justine Zinkin ’02, who is proving that it's possible for banks to serve New York City's poorest individuals — and help them achieve long-term financial stability.

Can a Kinder, Gentler Company Earn a Bigger Bottom Line?
Ideas @ Work — April 25, 2011
Corporate social responsibility, says Professor Ray Fisman, can help companies earn consumers' trust, and perhaps even higher profits.

From New York to Riyadh
Financial Times—April 18, 2011
Programs in Social Enterprise in Executive Education educates leaders from Saudi nonprofits to aid long-term success.

Reclaiming the Past Through Art
Hermes—April 11, 2011
Sara Green ’01 founded a nonprofit that helps refugees preserve the cultural traditions of their homelands.

Sustainable MBA Programs Look To Provide Entrepreneurial Solutions to the World's Social Woes
The Village Voice — April 6, 2011
Sandra Navalli, senior director of the Social Enterprise Program, talks about the program's growth, which now represents 45 percent of the MBA student body.

Bloomberg's Push for Corporate Sustainability
Fast Company — April 1, 2011
Curtis Ravenel ’01, director of sustainability for Bloomberg, analyzes firms' environmental, social, and governance practices.

Mission Accomplished, Nonprofits Go Out of Business
New York Times — April 1, 2011
Andrea Wenner ’05 started Out2Play, which has now provided 120 playgrounds for schools in New York City. Having accomplished its mission, the organization plans to close its doors next year.

Betting Big on Recycling
Wall Street Journal — March 17, 2011
Ron Gonen EMBA ’04 came up with the idea for Recyclebank while at Columbia, and now the company has stopped an estimated billion pounds of waste from hitting landfills.

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