Representatives of the Harvard Business School did the wave amid one-hundred and twenty business students squeezed into a sun-filled conference room on the top floor of Huntsman Hall. A mix of enthusiasm and anticipation pervaded the air as Jacob Gray, the Senior Director for the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, began roll call. This was the finals for the MBA Impact Investing Network and Training (MIINT) program, and twenty-five business schools from across the world were present at the University of Pennsylvania to compete.
MIINT, an experiential training ground for the next generation of impact investors, is an annual program in which MBA and graduate students experience the hands-on process of becoming impact investors. This year, more than 620 students participated, creating teams,
joining in online workshops, conducting research and due diligence, and ultimately presenting their own investment recommendations at the final competition in April.
Impact investing, according to Dr. Sherryl Kuhlman, the Managing Director for the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, is “a promising tool that enables us to tackle some of the world’s most difficult social problems, while also achieving financial returns. These types of investments are already financing advancements in education, financial inclusion, gender equality, environmental change, healthcare, and more. It’s a field that’s relatively new, but growing immensely among a millennial generation that connects with the idea of ‘doing well, while doing good.’”
On April 9th and 10th, the Wharton Social Impact Initiative hosted the MIINT finals—the program’s largest year yet. An indication of its growth was found online. Social media was buzzing throughout the entire weekend, with roughly 6,000 impressions on the official #MIINT2016 hashtag.
The success of the MIINT finals extends far beyond numbers however. It cultivates a drive among the future business leaders of the world to use their influence to create change in the social sphere and invest in products that will improve the quality of life for those who need it most. This year the impact investing marketplace grew to $60 billion and MIINT prepares students for this rapidly developing environment through its multifaceted year-long curriculum. Furthermore, MIINT breaks down the stereotype that businesses are inherently corrupt and communicates the rise of impact investing to the public.
Through social media and other outlets, MIINT gives its participants a sneak peek into what is essentially a movement. Impact investing is about establishing business with the goal of spurring positive social impact from the get-go, instead of leaving social activism to philanthropic organizations. Through the official #MIINT2016 hashtag, thousands of people were made aware of this form of responsible investing.
More so, MIINT creates a plethora of opportunities for rising businesspersons to network, receive valuable feedback, and begin their careers, while inspiring a younger generation. This year, students were invited to an opening reception that provided them with the opportunity to network with industry leaders and representatives of various companies that focus on impact investing. At a lunch panel on the day of the final competition, students were also able to engage in conversation with many leading impact investors.
As a Central High School student that was able to spectate this event, I was able to not only learn about the program itself, but also to sit in on some of the investment recommendations made by the finalists. Scribbling down pages of notes, I was fully absorbed by the various companies that were presented, which targeted everything from new products for water purification to STEM learning apps for college students.
When asked for advice for high-schoolers interested in impact investing, Dr. Kuhlman gave some valuable feedback, stating, “Do some research to get better acquainted with the field. Read all you can, and think critically about how finance can be used to make a difference.”
Kuhlman added, “We recommend reading this introductory guide by The Calvert Foundation, (founded by Wharton alumnus Wayne Silby) and watching this video interview with Dr. Katherine Klein, Vice Dean for Social Impact. Wharton Social Impact Initiative also posts frequent stories and helpful updates on the impact investing topic on our blog.”
Sitting in the midst of the brightest new minds of business, the future felt like a secure and exciting place, where multitudes of people across varying fields work towards a better tomorrow.
Monica Volodarsky (276)
Photos courtesy of Monica Volodarsky (276).