By Anelle Mensah

On 10-14 April, Net Impact at Darden hosted the 2017 Net Impact Week at Darden, co-sponsored by other Darden student organizations including Darden’s Global Business and Culture Club, Business & Public Policy Club, Darden Impact Ventures and Darden Wine and Cuisine Club.  This year’s theme of “Business for Good” included events that ranged from a sunset yoga session to a sustainability wine tour, with public discussions and forums in between.  Each of these events emphasized positive change that business can foster in the nonprofit, public and private sectors.

Winston Phillips (Class of 2017), who currently serves as President of Net Impact at Darden, shared her thoughts on the significance of initiatives such as Net Impact Week. “Net Impact’s mission is broad, so we wanted Net Impact Week to cover a diversity of topics that reflects the diversity of our club. What binds us is the spirit of mobilizing new generations to use their skills and careers to drive transformational social and environmental changes. In short, to orient business toward the greater good. Through discussions of social entrepreneurship, impact investing, entrepreneurial ecosystems in America’s rust belt, the sustainability of water, and organic farming/wine making, we believe that we were able to bring the discussion of “business for good” to Darden,” she said.

First Coffee marked the kick-off event for Net Impact Week, where attendees received free coffee mugs made by Fairware as well as free snacks from KIND. The event also featured a visual installation, which included quotes from KIND CEO Daniel Lubetzky on sustainability and a chalkboard for attendees to express what sustainability means to them.

Lexi Graham, third year undergraduate student and KIND representative, also reflected on the role of KIND and its responsibility in affecting positive change through its business practices. “I’m glad they invited me here. I think that KIND embodies a lot of what Net Impact is trying to accomplish and we really try to do that through our marketing initiatives.”

Rebecca van Bergen, Founder and Executive Director of Nest, gave the keynote address for Net Impact Week on Monday afternoon. Nest connects artisans with opportunities and the tools to create and advance sustainable business within their countries while also promoting their visibility and women’s empowerment. A sunset yoga session led by FlyDog Yoga rounded out the events for Monday, where participants relaxed and enjoyed being outside on beautiful Darden grounds.

On Tuesday, Net Impact at Darden, along with Darden Impact Ventures and the Center for Asset Management, hosted the Impact Investing Forum. The forum consisted of a panel of impact investing experts who discussed the approaches to impact investing, career exploration, and the what the future holds for the impact investors.

Wednesday’s and Thursday’s events integrated politics, business and social change. Wednesday’s event, titled “The Truth About Trump’s America: The Entrepreneurial Renaissance in America’s Heartland,” focused on economic and entrepreneurial possibilities within the U.S. Rust Belt amid today’s current political climate in the U.S. Thursday featured a panel discussion on the ongoing Flint water crisis–now two years later–from academic, legal and business perspectives. Furthermore, the event provided insights into water infrastructure and recommendations for how to prevent future water crises.

The 2017 Net Impact Week concluded with a Sustainability Wine Tour, where participants enjoyed organic wine and snacks and learned more about the approaches to organic farming in Virginia.  Winston Phillips (Class of 2017) reflected on the week’s events and the future of Net Impact Week. “Net Impact Week was a huge success this year, evidenced by the exciting programming, the incredible attendance at each event (even in sunny April), and the overall support from co-sponsors, faculty, and students at Darden. As a board, we were especially excited about the wide range of topics we covered this year. We hope to continue to bring perspective-changing discussions to Darden each year through Net Impact Week.”

At Net Impact Week’s First Coffee, students shared what sustainability means to them.
Mayank Garg and Praneeth Burra (both Class of 2018) enjoy the beginning of Net Impact festivities.
Students participate in yoga on Darden’s lawn.
Five different cuisines from all around the world were featured at the Cold Call, organized by the Global Business and Culture Club.