Feeling the Social Impact at Wharton
- by Celia Lewis
I came to Wharton eager to learn how I could leverage my business education to add measurable value to both local communities and society at large. Now, halfway through my junior year, I have had the opportunity to pursue this goal from a variety of perspectives from providing consulting services to Philadelphia nonprofits with the Wharton Social Impact Consulting Group (an undergraduate not-for-profit student club) to discussing the intricacies of socially responsible investments (SRIs) in Finance 381(a new Wharton course). However, some of my most exciting work related to social impact has been through my involvement with the Wharton Social Impact Initiative (WSII).
For the past nine months I have been working alongside Katherine Klein, vice dean for Social Impact and Edward H. Bowman Professor of Management; Sherryl Kuhlman, WG’01, WSII managing director; and Jacob Gray, WSII senior director, as well as a group of more than 20 Wharton undergraduate and MBA students to help build and expand opportunities for students to engage in social impact on campus. My involvement has ranged from participating as one of the founding members of the Social Impact Advisory Board (SIAB) to helping launch WSII’s Social Intrapreneurship Program (SIP). Whether managing the development of strategic relationships with organizations like Spark, a national nonprofit that seeks to provide life-changing apprenticeships to youth from disadvantaged communities (and was founded by Chris Balme, C’03 W’03), to leading research projects on topics such as venture capital, impact investing and women and leadership, the opportunities to create value with the support of the WSII team are varied.
One project I have been particularly enthusiastic about has been the Philadelphia Social Enterprise Partnership (PSEP), a collaboration among the local social venture incubator GoodCompany Group, Philadelphia Office of New Urban Mechanics and Wharton developed out of Philadelphia’s interest in creating a submission for Bloomberg Philanthropies’s $5 million Mayors Challenge. Out of more than 300 submissions, PSEP was chosen in November as one of 20 finalists for the $5 million grand prize and one of four $1 million prizes.
As a SIP Associate, I have had the opportunity to participate in a number of conversations with PSEP leaders around how to encourage and support engagement opportunities for Wharton students in this partnership. Several weeks ago, I had the chance to facilitate a discussion with leading members of Philadelphia’s entrepreneurial community to discuss their visions for building a strong and vibrant community of entrepreneurs in Philadelphia and how the Mayor’s Office for New Urban Mechanics and the Philadelphia City Government could help realize their collective vision. At the end, Mayor Michael Nutter, W’79, himself joined our conversation, and our groups were able to propose our recommendations directly to him and solicit feedback. As the youngest student participant at the event, the opportunity has been an experience I could never have dreamed of having available to me as an undergrad.
With two and a half semesters ahead of me, I know each day will bring new and exciting ideas, opportunities and challenges to increasing the visibility of social impact at Wharton.
Editor’s note: This post first appeared on Wharton Undergraduate Program’s Student Voices blog on Feb. 18, 2013.