Welcome to the 2013 Social Enterprise Conference: Engaging Customers and Clients in Social Change

Welcome to the 2013 Social Enterprise Conference: Engaging Customers and Clients in Social Change

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By Vidula Menon ’14, Conference Co-Chair

On behalf of Columbia Business School’s Social Enterprise Program, the Conference Governing Board, the Social Enterprise, Green Business and International Development clubs, and the conference organizing committee and volunteers, Jenny and I are excited to welcome you to the 12th annual Social Enterprise Conference!

Born into a business family, the concept of success was instilled in me from a very young age. Watching my father transition his career from a corporate banker to the co-founder of a micro-financing company for low income Indian families made me realize that success does not preclude social giving. Growing up in a typical Mumbai apartment only solidified this realization. Despite the view of residential high rises and newly constructed highways in the distance, it was hard to miss the slums and beggars below. I could see India’s shining future, but I knew to reach it would require including the masses through the focused effort of NGOs, social entrepreneurs and major MNCs.  Over the years, I have continued to search for strategies that find common ground between profits and societal needs; however, it was only during last year’s conference that I decided to turn this passion into a career path.

As Conference Co-Chair, I have had to the incredible opportunity to meet with some of the most dynamic leaders and personalities in this space. Learning about Charles Best’s goal to fund 500 new AP STEM classes nationwide and Hamdi Ulukaya’s participation in the USDA school lunch pilot program has been enlightening and we are excited to share some of their accomplishments with all of you.

I also believe that the theme of this conference is an important question within the Social Enterprise sector. Too often as participants in this field, we come across brilliant ideas that fail to generate long-term impact. The reason is often due to a failure to mobilize masses and create genuine customer interest. Products and services that directly benefit the end-user may not always require skillful and creative marketing, but ideas that benefit society as a whole do. The mass consumer has an innate tendency to disregard ideas that benefit intangible third parties.

The organizations and speakers at this conference have had personal experience with these struggles and discovered the secret ingredients that can create mass movements. From viral campaigns to social media marketing to grass-root movements, these organizations can teach us how to engage customers and clients towards social change.

Our conference organizing team has worked hard over the past year to bring together a curriculum of engaging speakers and thought leaders and we hope you are as excited as we are for an engaging and compelling day.

Thank you for joining us!

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