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In line with the Center’s mission to provide students with opportunities to cultivate leadership skills and practice ethical decision-making, the Bernstein Center is offering Leadership Development Grants to Student Leadership and Ethics Board members. The Grants will enable participation in external conferences or experiential learning activities that pertain to topics in their fields of interest.
The Leadership Development Grant Awardees for the 2018-2019 academic year were Lawson Curtis MBA ’19, Julie Joseph EMBA ’19, Gladys Ndagire MBA ’19, and Anna Smukowski EMBA ’19. Read on for some reflections on their experiences:
Lawson Curtis ’19
During my 20-month MBA journey at Columbia, I have been afforded the opportunity to explore my curiosities and learn more about how ESG factors and more broadly, sustainable investing, fits in with today’s market participants.
The Bernstein Center has been instrumental in guiding and supporting me in bringing in the top minds and practitioners in sustainable investing to the School since it directly relates to our three focus areas for SLEB: Governance, CSR, and Values-Based Leadership. SLEB proudly hosted ESG representatives from BlackRock, Goldman Sachs, United Nations PRI and many others for intimate roundtables, panel discussions, workshops and more.
Additionally, I was elated to be awarded a Leadership Grant which helped sponsor my participation in the Social Finance Forum in my home town, Toronto, Canada . Due to my participation in the conference, I had the opportunity to meet dozens of practitioners and academics to discuss the current trends in ESG, including climate measures as financial metrics, ESG as a marketing principle, and the top talent being recruited specifically to bring ESG into mainstream portfolios From these conversations, I have taken away so many valuable lessons and I am excited to unlock my path and participate in the development of a strong, stable and collective world economy after graduation.
Julie Joseph '19
The American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL) held its physician executive leadership seminar earlier this year in February and I was thrilled to attend with sponsorship from the Bernstein Center and the Leadership Development Grants. AAPL is the premier organization for physician leadership in the United States. The organization aims to improve the delivery of healthcare by enhancing physician leadership expertise by developing their leadership skillset and instilling shared core values through education, career development, and thought leadership.
The leadership seminar was an amazing opportunity for me to strengthen my leadership and ethical decision-making skills as a healthcare executive. Discussions surrounding leadership styles, effective communication, ethics, and guiding principles were the cornerstone of the conference, and provided me with the opportunity to develop my leadership philosophy and to refine my professional core values. I learned that a leadership philosophy helps one make the right decisions, while core values helps one to adhere to their leadership philosophy. In addition, identifying the leadership styles of others and using this information to effectively communicate as a healthcare leader was emphasized as well.
Being an effective leader involves a well-defined leadership philosophy, strong core values, as well as the ability to effectively listen and communicate. The AAPL physician leadership seminar allowed me to evaluate and strengthen these leadership competencies. And with the healthcare environment being so dynamic, it is even more important to cultivate purposeful physician leaders through conference like this one.
Special thanks to the Bernstein Center for allowing me to participate in this leadership seminar!
Gladys Ndagire ’19
With 73,718 attendees from 106 different countries and 2,000 plus sessions, South by Southwest (SXSW) 2019 was one of the most extensive and influential conferences I have ever attended. At the conference, I wanted to spend my time delving into three key themes which professionally and personally interest me as a future business leader: empowering a diverse workforce, food entrepreneurship, and emerging careers in the AI economy. Here are a few takeaways from these themes:
Empowering a diverse workforce: This year's conference coincided with International Women's Day, and Arlan Hamilton, founder of Backstage Capital, kicked off the conversation by discussing the work still needed to be done to lift up and empower underrepresented female investors. And at SAP house, sponsored by the German multinational software company, I learned about neurodiversity and the company's autism at work program. By focusing on adaptive functioning and augmenting strengths (versus development areas), companies like Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, and SAP are increasing the talent pool and workforce productivity of existing neurodiversity employees.
Food entrepreneurship: Insects, cauliflower, and cannabis were the top food highlights at SXSW 2019. Austin’s Google Fiber space hosted dozens of initiatives for climate friendly healthy food and I even had the opportunity to try out different cricket chocolate pairings and bee larvae. And cauliflower had an entire exhibition to itself, celebrating its diverse application as the preferred pizza base. Cannabusiness startups and panels on CBD regulations also took center stage at the SXSW wellness exhibition led by predominantly female founders, including Undefined Beauty, Bäde, and Cheekywell. Entrepreneurs I spoke with cited challenges with banking technology as state and federal government policies are not yet fully aligned on how to regulate cannabusiness.
Emerging AI careers: A big question at the conference was, “What happens after AI takes our jobs?” SAP house took on this question through the interactive Resume of the Future experience, which involved answering a series of five questions to map out what your career may look like by 2025. While my likely profession by 2025 is “digital credentialist”, robot choreographer, passion broker, and various ethics roles, I learned that automation and AI may replace repeatable tasks but cannot replace the humanity driving intimate connections between workforce, mission, vision, and values.
At The Atlantic’s Power of Purpose Summit and the Columbia Social Enterprise Capital for Good Conference in Fall 2018, the consensus was clear: the way people are making money and choosing to spend it is changing. Underlying this change is the opportunity for individuals and corporations to align their careers and capital with impact, however the challenge of how to measure that impact still remains. Fast forward to January 2019, TPG Growth’s Rise Fund launched Y Analytics as a for-profit impact measurement and research firm and the Acumen Fund has spun out their Lean Data initiative as 60 Decibels, a new for-profit firm. With these firms come new ethical implications for how for-profit firms quantify, and monetize impact.
Similar to issues I’ve encountered during my day job in Pay for Success (PFS), calculating and monetizing the cost-benefit of social services is complex involving many interplaying factors and parties. The level of evidence needed to demonstrate social value of high performing social service providers to engage in PFS negotiations is in the form of quasi-experimental design(s) or randomized controlled trial(s) – the most rigorous forms of evaluation. These studies show clear impact, including direction and magnitude of impact, of a social service on a target population but have had their fair share of ethical issues including the potential to deny vulnerable populations critical services in order to test a model.
In the absence of rigorous evaluation of a company's social performance, the for-profit impact measurement industry has rolled out terms like impact multiple of money where the methodology attempts to put a dollar value on the social impact expected from a company’s business activity based on evidence-based financial proxies of impact.
Concerns by impact investing veterans like Jed Emerson include missing out on funds that tackle larger, systemic societal issues by focusing on maximizing project level impact or cherry picking positive outcomes and dismissing negative ones. On the positive side, the move to standardize impact measurement provides an opportunity for new investors to understand and evaluate a complex industry in terms they can understand: money. According to ImpactAlpha an example of the multiple is the Rise Fund’s investment in the education technology firm EverFi. The fund estimates that they could deliver $500 million in societal benefit through the reduction of alcohol-related deaths, averted sexual assaults and lowered student debt burden off of a $100 million investment.
As the impact measurement industry evolves, it will be interesting to see how they grapple with similar challenges nonprofit social service providers, governments and evaluators have grappled with in creating and funding effective social programs.
Thank you to the Bernstein Center for sponsoring my attendance to The Power of Purpose and The Social Enterprise Conference as part of their ethical leadership development grants for the Student Leadership and Ethics Board. Thanks to ImpactAlpha and the Urban Institute for references.
For more information, please visit our Student Leadership and Ethics Board homepage.