Chicago Booth Social Impact Summit

Chicago Booth Social Impact Summit

An increasing number of Boothies are pursuing careers in social impact in a wide range of positions from non-profits, to impact investing to entrepreneurial paths – we are excited to see where these students go post MBA. Within Booth, students can focus on courses related to Social Impact such as Impact Investing, Corporate Social Responsibility Social Impact Practicum, Social Sector Strategy and Structure and more. Booth students can also take classes at The University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and even pursue a joint Masters degree. Furthermore, there are several scholarships and fellowships at Booth for students pursuing paths in Social Impact.

On campus, students can get involved by joining The Net Impact Group, a student-run club that hosts a variety of programs throughout the year including the annual Social Impact Summit. TBE had the chance to sit down with recent graduate and Co-Chair of the Net Impact Club, Shelby Cain, to hear more about her work organizing the conference this past spring

What is The Social Impact Summit?

The Social Impact Summit is an annual event conceived by the Net Impact Student Group and organized by Chicago Booth and Harris School of Public Policy students to bring together business professionals, thought leaders, and public figures to have open conversations on social impact. The half-day conference facilitates discussions between all graduate studies at the University of Chicago and promotes unique learning and networking opportunities for both students and our hosted speakers.

This year was the 4th Summit the University has hosted and the theme was “How can business support local community health, wealth, and wellbeing?”

What were the highlights of Social Impact Summit 2022?

The 2022 Social Impact Summit was a significant occasion for Net Impact and graduate students across the University interested in social impact. Last year the Summit took a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We were nervous that a nascent conference, only in its 4th year, might have lost its momentum and would potentially fall into obscurity as most of the student body hadn’t had a chance to experience the event. Additionally, despite our preemptive planning, there was always the uncertainty of planning around COVID-19.

Ultimately, we were relieved to revive the conference not only back to its in-person status, but even bigger than it has ever been. By the numbers, we had over 160 attendees registered from Chicago Booth, the Harris School of Public Policy, other University of Chicago Graduate Programs, and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. We were delighted to feature 19 guests and speakers from across various industries with 9 highly engaging sessions and a lively reception.

The conference spanned three floors across the Harper Center. Between conference sessions, lively discussions about impact investing, food security, and public health could be heard through the building. I did not expect to have most of our speakers attend in-person, but they were all passionate about their work and long awaiting a chance to do speaking engagements in-person and to meet University of Chicago students. I remember when community activist and candidate for Illinois First Congressional District, Jahmal Cole, arrived in the building he had an audience captivated as soon as he came in by the Winter Garden entrance before getting to his classroom.

What was it like to plan Social Impact Summit?

There was a lot of uncertainty in planning one of the first back in-person conferences at the University. (1) None of the current Net Impact Co-chairs had ever attended one of the prior year’s Summits. (2) The Covid regulations for events in the fall (when we started planning) looked entirely different from the regulations in the Spring Quarter when the event was held. And (3) this event is not for Boothies exclusively. It spans the graduate colleges at University of Chicago, the Kellogg Net Impact Chapter, and the professional chapter of the National Net Impact Organization, and required that we re-establish our connections after a year of low-interaction.

A point of pride for me was when a conference attendee said that there were too many concurrent interesting sessions in each of our three-time blocks that it was difficult to choose which one to attend. I wanted the Summit to be an event that any student, no matter what area of social impact or subject matter expertise, could find something interesting or applicable. Sourcing speakers was a rollercoaster because the field of social impact is so broad. We have people making impacts in public, private, and social sectors. But we used our theme of the local community and the categories of health, wealth, and well-being as a jumping off point. Many of our Booth alumni were more than eager to attend or speak when requested. Beyond that we leveraged the connections in the planning committee and the Booth community to make some great connections!

The Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation was also a very valuable resource, not only as our leading sponsor, but they also talked with us early on at the beginning of the year about our theme and speaker line up. From Booth’s full-time staff, Christopher Schneider at The Rustandy Center and Michael Thomas from Student Life, were some of the best administrative event collaborators I have worked with through a student organization. Even with all the turbulent states of event planning during COVID (hybrid sessions, changing policies, etc.), our advisor did a great job of giving us a scope of our options and keeping us updated. And Christopher looked deep into the connections that Rustandy has in Chicago to put us in contact with fascinating social impact leaders available to meet us in-person, on-campus.

How do students get involved with planning the Social Impact Summit?

Firstly, if they are a Booth student, they should join Net Impact, not only to stay up-to-date on the summit, but to also get involved with other social impact programming on campus and other students also interested in the intersection of social impact and business. Booth students and grad students across the university can get in contact with Wing-Cee Tang (Chicago Booth Class of ’23) who will be planning the Summit this next year.

How has Booth prepared you for a career in Impact?

My time at Booth has exposed me to a wide variety of ways I can engage with impact post-graduation. Before Booth, my perspective on work in social impact was narrower, however after speaking with professors, fellow students, alumni, and professionals (that I have gotten the chance to meet during events like the Social Impact Summit), I feel like I have a broader scope of how I can leverage my professional pursuits for social good.

Can you tell TBE Readers a bit about your background before Booth, what you’ve been involved in at school, and your plans post-graduation?

Before Booth, I served for a little over two years with the U.S. Peace Corps as a Food Security Specialist in Luapula Province, Zambia. Worked with subsistence farmers and farming co-operatives to improve their yields, household dietary diversity, and income. Some of my projects included lessons in low-investment conservation farming, establishing a community-run egg-laying operation, and teaching workshops in various villages on basic record keeping. Before Peace Corps, I worked in marketing and communications at an international development NGO in D.C.

After Booth, I will be moving to Cincinnati, OH, to join Procter & Gamble (also where I interned summer of ’21), as a Senior Finance Manager in their Global Oral Care division.

Shelby Cain, ’22 – Co-Chair of Net Impact Group