For a better tomorrow: Net Impact — Two Current Students Experience

By, Gloria Liu

This year, the ‘100 different flavors of amazing’ and ‘emotional highpoint of our year’ Net Impact Conference, a leading nonprofit, was held in Twin Cities, Minneapolis. For three days from November 6 to November 8, thousands of leaders in businesses, academics, and nonprofits gather there to share their ideas and seek solutions. A bunch of T-birds went to the Net Impact conference. The following write-up is the experience of 2 fellow T-birds.


Chang Zhang

Chang is a first year MA Global Affairs and Management student. She loves animals and wants to devote to animal issues. Attending Net Impact enables her to learn the non-profit languages, updated trends of sustainable development, company efforts, and hope.


Why did you go to the Net Impact Conference?


‘I always wanted to do something about animal protection. In fact, I was considering getting a master’s degree in environment science before coming to Thunderbird. Then I learned about the NPO and its increasing impact on global issues, I made up my mind to work there. Needless to say, for a student like me with no work experience, attending the Net Impact Conference is a necessary first step towards reaching my goal.’


What did you do at the Net Impact Conference?


‘I attended opening and closing ceremonies, several conferences in between, some networking events, and a career fair called Expo.’


Can you give me an example of those conferences? What was it about?


‘Well, I can give you many examples. One of the Keynotes (speeches) was given by Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever. He talked about transformative leadership, a topic that really impressed me. For instance, he said that the average company time is eighteen years. He also said that today 25% of total population was made up by young people who will make up 100% of future population. I felt inspired by that saying because we young people are the future of the world and we have the ability to make world a better place. I also agree with Paul’s saying that the cost of not doing something is greater than doing it, because it’s too late to be pessimistic. I feel that individuals should be motivated to do something about environment.’


What can individuals do?


‘Take a quick shower every morning to save water and power. Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth. Changing little habits can make a big difference.’


Did you find any other Keynotes inspiring?


‘Yes, of course. One of them was climate change. I remember one speaker said that customers could be divided into three categories: cost-driven, habit-driven, and technology-driven. Habit-driven customers are the majority now but technology-driven customers are growing. Companies therefore can come up with different projects targeting different customer segments. To make companies do something about climate change, B2B peer pressure, supply chain materials, and energy efficiency plays a robust role. ’


What are your take-away from the Conference?


‘The first thing that I learned is the terminologies, which I can use in class discussions. The second thing is that I learned about the latest updates and trends about sustainable development. The third thing that I learned is the efforts that companies have put in the cause, and I feel hopeful because of that.’


Now coming back from the Conference, what’s your next plan?


‘For short term, I will work for a non-profit organization to gain experience and make my contributions. In the longer run, I think I will want to start my own venture to make a wider impact.’


Thanks for the interview.


‘You’re welcome. I am glad to share my experience.’


Darren Watkins


Darren Watkins is a first year MBA student with six years’ experience in non-profit sector and one-year experience in for-profit sector. By attending the Net Impact Conference, Darren hopes to widen his network and find an internship.


Why did you go to the Net Impact Conference?


‘I have years’ of experience in the non-profit sector. With a MBA from Thunderbird, I am hoping to see opportunities in both non-profit and for profit businesses. Attending the Net Impact Conference would help me to see opportunities in the non-profit sector.’


What did you do at the Net Impact Conference?


‘It was a three-day conference, with opening and closing ceremonies, some speeches in between, and break outs between speeches. I went to the opening and closing ceremonies, and attended the career fair. The opening speaker Dan Pallotta was great. He wanted to change people’s idea about the non-profit sector, trying to bring in a for profit mindset to non-profit organizations. NPO are more efficient, acquire better talents, and produce better results. Temple Grandin at the closing was also great. She talked about animal slaughter issues. Basically, she advocated that ethical treatment to animals was good for business, making animals feel better and us feel better, and improve the bottom line.’


In between of the opening and closing ceremonies, did you find any other speakers intriguing to you?


‘Yes, sure. I met many people at the career fair, or Net Impact Expo as they call it. Companies took resumes and explained their open positions. I was mainly targeting at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that mainly fund projects that have potential. I talked with them about internship opportunities because my background matches what they do.’


Can you elaborate about your background and the Foundation?


‘In my non-profit work, I was doing grant reviewing and grant approval and grant management, mainly in agriculture and health areas. Since Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is doing similar things, I consider it a perfect match for my internship. Even though I may choose to pursue a for profit career after graduation, an internship in a leading non-profit organization is still helpful.’


What’s your next plan?


‘I will follow on the internships from Net Impact. And for the longer run, I want to be a project manager that involves coordinating fieldwork and office work, in the field of international development (agriculture, forestry, or human development), or renewable energies.’


Thank you for the interview.


‘My pleasure.’

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