Using Business Skills for Social Impact

By: Marissa Burkett, Staff Writer

Last Friday’s Social Impact Day offered a multitude of interesting speakers, and experts in social enterprise and nonprofit industries. The event, which was co-sponsored by the Thunderbird Marketing Association, Honor Council and Net Impact, covered topics from biotechnological advances for social benefit to how to not pay a bribe.

The first speaker, MaryAnn Guerra from Bio Accell spoke about the importance of creating messaging to your target audience of donors.  Bio Accell is pursuing a new business model that converges a nonprofit with a for-profit business by pursuing income streams that will support their charitable endeavors.  One of the methods that they will pursue in their sustainable business model involves them entering the world of aesthetics, premium products that will hedge the costs of other products.

After lunch, Dr. Douglas Jackson from Project C.U.R.E. spoke about finding the intersection of passion and purpose and the necessity of living a purpose driven life. “Your life will never turn out the way you think and it’s okay ,” he emphasized while telling the story of his father finding wealth but not happiness in traditional business. Project C.U.R.E. delivers medical supplies to developing countries, specifically in the case of emergencies such as the Ebola crisis. Dr. Jackson has extensive experience in global supply chain management, in-country relationship building and inventory systems and shared his knowledge of the complex logistics involved in getting medical aid to those in need and bypassing the bribes and corrupt officials that stand in the way.

At 2:00 PM, we heard from Ian Dowdy, Program Director of the Sonoran Institute, a local nonprofit that focuses on conservation efforts in the face of rapid development. Mr. Dowdy spoke at great length on the issues that face Arizona’s Sun Corridor, the area that spans from Phoenix to Tuscon, considering the imminent urban development and population growth in the area.  His presentation showed where exactly growth was supposed to occur (the West Valley) and why that area was expecting such a surge of development. Finally, he spoke of what his organization was doing to ensure environmental conservation in the face of such expansion.

The final speakers of the day, Wynona Heim (MA, ’08), Client Director from Thunderbird for Good and Laura Libman (MBA, ’05), CEO of the Tia Foundation, discussed revenue streams for private charities and institutional nonprofits. Libman also extensively discussed the important of baseline data studies before implementing humanitarian initiatives as well as performance and evaluation metrics afterwards. This data is important both to show donors that measured improvements have been made for your beneficiaries and to improve your model for future initiatives.  Heim then compared the hardships that regular nonprofits have in monitoring and evaluation to academic charities, which have a much heavier research and evaluation focus.

The Tia Foundation is a local 501(C)(3) nonprofit that travels to village communities in rural Mexico and trains local women as Community Health workers. These health workers treat minor injuries and illnesses in their communities and provide triage during the monthly visit of the doctor, allowing him to see more patients.

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