November 4, 2010 | 2:21 PM
Last weekend Grameen America’s Director of Evaluation and Education, Katherine Rosenberg, attended the 18th Annual Net Impact Conference at the University of Michigan’s Ross Business School. The conference, entitled 2020: Vision for a Sustainable Decade, was very successful with over 2,500 MBA students and sustainable development professionals participating in the panels, lectures and expo.
Katherine took part in a panel called Markets For Good: How Social Investors Will Change the World. Other participants on the panel included Mari Kuraishi (Co-Founder and President of GlobalGiving Foundation), Brian Walsh (Director of Liquidnet for Good) and David Wilcox (Founder of ReachScale). About 100 people attended the panel, which focused on gaining access to capital markets on international and domestic levels in the non-profit world. The speakers explored how the profit and non-profit worlds can combine to create access to capital without jeopardizing the ultimate mission of creating opportunities for the poor.
During the conference, one of the recurring questions that Katherine was asked was “does microfinance actually work?” Her response: “Microfinance has become a broad spectrum. Speaking on behalf of Grameen America, we offer small loans and have great stories about how we have already pulled people out of poverty”. Although the term microfinance is slowly beginning to register as a household term, people are still uncertain about how effective it can be, especially on a domestic level. This is one of the challenges we are continuing to explore and one of the benefits of being able to attend these conferences.
One of the most informative panels that she attended was called Philanthropy 2020: How is Philanthropy Changing and what are the Implications for Nonprofits. The panel focused on the measurement of social value in the nonprofit sector.
Katherine also found the keynote address by Gary Hirshberg, Chairman, president and CEO of Stonyfield Farms inspiring. He spoke on the transformation of his company from a small dairy farm to the worlds leading international organic yogurt producer with over $366 Million in annual sales. One of topics he touched on, which helped Stonyfield experience such rapid growth, was innovative marketing technique such as advertising on the tops of yogurt and milk containers. It was a simple method but one that clearly produced results – certainly something that could be applied in the non-profit sector as well.
Although Grameen America was only involved directly through Katherine’s participation in the panel, Professor Yunus’ name came up several times because of his focus on promoting social business. It was apparent during the conference that his influence has encouraged people to change their way of thinking – not just to run a business but to be socially minded about it as well. We can only hope that his influence can do for social business what it has already done for popularizing microfinance.
Follow this link for more information about the 2010 Net Impact Conference.
Follow this link for more information about Gary Hirshberg on the Stonyfield website.
To check out Professor Yunus' latest book Building Social Business please click here.