Students get a taste of the social impact sector’s world of opportunity at LAUNCH

The Skoll Centre’s Rebecca Moore gives us a wrap-up from LAUNCH 2015: Social Impact Careers Conference hosted at the School on 6th May.

Launch 1

“For many of us, the idea of a ‘career path’ first came on the radar the same time that people started telling us about direction (we should get some) and purpose (we should have some). The problem is that some career paths are clearer than others and a route into or through a socially impactful career can be one of the hardest to navigate.

How do you find your niche? Who can you ask? Where the heck is the Careers Handbook on the issue? (Spoiler: there isn’t one). These types of questions were at the heart of LAUNCH 2015: Saïd Business School’s own social impact careers conference, jointly hosted by the Careers Centre and the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. On 6th May, over 150 students and professionals gathered with a swathe of sector specialists for an afternoon of knowledge sharing and straight-talking advice.

launch panel june sarpong

Right from the beginning of the conference, LAUNCH highlighted the wide array of career choices available in the social impact space. Denise Hearne, a current MBA student at SBS, noted that the real achievement of the day was its diversity of panellists and attendees. Denise commented,

Having 6 different streams with everything from social finance, diverse paths to impact, consulting, and social entrepreneurship gave a great broad-sweeping overview of the many paths to take within the sector.”

Not only were the topics and attendees diverse, but the speakers’ routes into their current careers were often meandering and inspirational. One particular highlight was the lively debate that took place at the ‘Diverse paths for global impact’ session, where a varied team of panellists discussed their individual roads to creating positive change in the world. Jean Pierre Mustier described his unconventional route into impact investing and emphasised the need for young people to try as many things out as possible. TV Broadcaster June Sarpong highlighted the use of celebrity wattage to shine light on important issues and described how her career has earned her an MBE for her work in broadcasting and charity. LAUNCH offered speakers a safe place to talk candidly about their initial career motivations, about the catalyst for change they had experienced and about how they made those changes to get where they are today.

launch social impact careers conference

The day was finished off brilliantly with an innovative ‘pitch-a-position’ style networking event. Anyone with a job or opportunity to offer took to the stage and pitched it for one minute – afterwards, anyone interested could approach them and ask questions over a much-needed beer. The drinks and canapés served at the finale of the event also offered attendees a welcome opportunity to network and mingle with the speakers they had been hearing from throughout the day. As MBA student Andrea Warriner put it,

I was amazed by the quality of the people I had the opportunity to interact with one-on-one, and the relevance of those people to my career aspirations.”

launch social impact careers conference

What stood out most about LAUNCH was its entrepreneurial spirit of open-mindedness and a recognition of the need for collaboration within the sector. There was also a positive appreciation that there is no single path, simply because there is no one destination called Most Socially Impactful. The choices are endless…and exciting. And LAUNCH 2015 was the perfect place to, well, launch yourself into those choices.”


A report from the Skoll Social Innovation Case Competition

 A report from Deepti Pulavarthi and Samantha Bastian, current MBA students at Saïd Business  School and this year’s Case Competition Co-Chairs.

“The students of the current MBA class organized the second Skoll Social Innovation Case Competition on May 2, 2015. With participants from across Oxford we saw some exciting and innovative solutions to problems faced by social entrepreneurs. We had ten teams compete; each team consisted of three participants from various University departments ranging from business, finance, engineering, sociology, interdisciplinary bioscience and public policy.

Agratam India case winners

Agratam India case winners with Agratam Founder, Akshay Verma

This year we had two organizations, Agratam India and Gram Vikas, as cases for student teams to provide solutions to business problems. Both cases were written by student organizers and focused on real challenges being faced by the organizations with questions revolving around scaling impact delivery, financing scale-up plans and measuring social impact.

Gram Vikas is an established not-for-profit in India tackling various tribal and rural development issues for the past 35 years such as education, land-use, housing and more recently water and sanitation. Agratam India, on the other hand, is a relatively new organization attempting to increase rural incomes through for-profit fish farming.

The teams were sent the cases 36 hours before their presentation and were given an opportunity to meet for a Q & A session with Yashveer Singh, Head of Strategy and Collaborations at Gram Vikas and Akshay Verma, Founder and Director of Agratam India.

An esteemed panel of experts from the social enterprise, impact investing and consulting field judged the final presentations of the solutions. The panel included Pamela Hartigan, David Hill, Fred Hersch, Natalia Pshenichnaya, Daniela Papi-Thorton, and Candice Motran.

The winners for the Gram Vikas case was a team of MBA students – Owen Scott, Chris Rex and Jessica Lau for their recommendation on bringing focus to water and sanitation work to attract CSR funding while managing a portfolio of other funders for supplementary rural and tribal development work. For the Agratam India case the winning team was Dan Copleston, Charlotte Lau and Bhavna Mittal from business and public policy. They recommended a phased approach for scale-up with innovative financing and incentives solutions.”