Yale SOM Team Wins Case Competition at Net Impact Conference
In the last four decades Philadelphia has lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs. That fact set the background for the Philadelphia Green Economy Case Competition won by a team of first-year students from SOM with a plan to make the city a center of green entrepreneurship
Nineteen teams, primarily from MBA programs around the country, submitted proposals to the competition, which was sponsored by Net Impact, St. Joseph’s College, and Philadelphia’s Sustainable Business Network and took place at the 2008 Net Impact North America Conference hosted by the Wharton School, November 13-15, 2008. Net Impact is a global organization that seeks to create a network of leaders who use business to make positive changes in social, environmental, and economic arenas.
Teams presented ideas on how to attract, fund, and grow triple-bottom-line (TBL) businesses — ventures that focus on "People, Planet, Profit" to create new jobs while solving environmental challenges. These businesses often have a hard time obtaining funding from traditional sources.
SOM’s winning proposal would create a Philly Fund credit card which would direct 1% of the net transactions to a small business incubator and standing loan pool. The incubator would assist TBL organizations with business plan development and implementation. The expertise and backup provided by the incubator would in turn make the businesses less risky to traditional sources of funding. The loan pool would become available to promising startups that can’t secure outside funding. And credit card holders would earn points for each dollar spent. The points could be redeemed at TBL businesses or donated to the Philly Fund.
The Green Economy Case Competition has a $5,000 prize which will be shared by the winning team made up of Cara Eng, Morley McBride, Ari Kahn, Stella Schons, and Michaela Daniel.
McBride said, "I came away believing in nontraditional solutions. It was so satisfying to have a presentation that everyone could understand, that offered a complete package, and really did solve all the pieces of the problem."
Schons added that many of the other finalists focused on the financing aspect of the case, proposing bonds or tax incentives. "The case said that the Sustainable Business Network is small and understaffed, like so many of these organizations. We took that seriously. We thought about options that would have a real impact right away with things the Network doesn’t currently have the time or resources to do."
The Sustainable Business Network will look into implementing the SOM proposal as well as combing through all submissions for pieces they can use.
"Winning was fun and the whole process was intellectually engaging. But it was being part of the SOM community that was really incredible," Daniel said. "We got so much support. Even the judges asked us about our fan section."
The thought was extended by Ari Kahn, "We channeled not only the culture of SOM but also the education." He added, "Our first half-semester classes served as on-the-job training — using brainstorming techniques learned just a couple weeks earlier we collaboratively generated an idea completely new to all of us."
The theme of the Net Impact conference was "The Sustainable Advantage: Creating Social and Environmental Value" and organizers estimated that more than 1,800 graduate students and professionals attended. Eighty-six Yale-affiliated attendees gave the school one of the largest contingents, particularly notable given SOM’s smaller size compared to other business schools.
Second-year SOM student Tricia Napor summed up her experience at Net Impact saying, "It was an inspiring experience. I was particularly impressed with the caliber of panel speakers and the vast array of topics covered. Experts in fields from philanthropy to economic development and social marketing to sustainable investing generously shared their knowledge of how to run successful mission-driven organizations. Beyond the pure educational aspect of the conference, it was great to be surrounded by MBA students who aim to bring business into alignment with social good."