Solving problems worth solving through business

 Vidya Spandana
Keynote speaker Vidya Spandana

I spent as much of the day as I could at the Gerding Theatre on Monday — eyes, ears and mind open. Long story short, I’m definitely going back next year. The speakers force you to think in new ways and the energy of the place just plain makes you feel good. The event program came with some great prompts for reflection, so I figured sharing my entries would give a pretty good idea of the experience. . .

Things to Google

The companies from PitchFest, starting with the winner, Jiko Power. Their product captures heat from a cookstove or fire and turns it into electricity for charging cellphones, LED lights, and other small devices. This solves two problems: owners in rural areas without electricity spend less time and money traveling to distant and expensive charging stations; and less carbon-emitting kerosene is burned for energy. Jiko is using the power of business to kill two birds with one stone. That’s pretty awesome.

What’s an assumption you had challenged today?

The magnitude of this event — it is way bigger than I anticipated. More than 500 people were there to be a part of this incredible movement. It made the messages of unity and collaboration that much more powerful. I had also gone in assuming that social entrepreneurship was all about the intangibles — empathy, passion and the like. While this was partially true, I quickly learned that the use of data science in this global mission is absolutely crucial.

Organizations to follow

Global PDX. The summit marked their official launch. Global PDX is essentially an organization of organizations. By combining the forces of Oregon’s global development initiatives, this consortium can seriously “elevate its impact” (like my use of buzzwords?). You can learn more about Global PDX.

What did you hear today that gave you goosebumps?

The final speaker, Vishnu Swaminathan, closed the event by saying, “Let’s go see this world as one great family.” Might seem a little cheesy, especially written by me in a blog. But in the moment Vishnu said it, I got a chill down my spine. It was a such a beautiful way to wrap up the day into one simple yet moving phrase. Okay, I’m done being sappy now.

What does it mean to you?

My main takeaway from the Elevating Impact Summit was that there is no divide between business and social entrepreneurship. All businesses, all individuals are responsible for the mark they make on the world. It’s not a question of whether we make an impact, but whether that impact is positive or not. Sometimes a ripple can make a wave and touch thousands of lives.

What action will you commit to as a result of today?

I’m going to change the way I research and fine-tune my job hunt. Multiple speakers stressed the importance of how we use data and metrics — are we looking through a neutral lens? What are our inherent biases and how do they affect our decision making? These questions should constantly be in the backs of our minds. For us students, it affects our career trajectories. What do we find most important in an employer? Maybe it’s their corporate responsibility and sustainability measures, or maybe it’s their sweet break room and free snacks. If you’re thinking you need to decide between the two, don’t — it’s okay to have both! We’re all looking for that dream job with perks that also makes us feel great about what we’re doing. We want to solve problems worth solving, and part of that means supporting companies that do the same.

Kyle Huck has a background in graphic design and web-based marketing. He graduated from The Portland MBA in 2018.

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