Lessons from Social Impact Days

By Smit Naik

Dreamers, innovators and visionaries assemble!”

That was the call I imagined myself and other first-year students hearing last month at the start of Kellogg’s Social Impact Days.

OK, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little. But honestly, not by much. Over the course of three glorious days, 100 of my closest friends and I embarked on our first Kellogg-guided journey. And what a journey it was.

To be honest, when I first signed up for Social Impact Days, a pre-term program run by the Kellogg Public-Private Interface (KPPI) Initiative, I had no idea what to expect. What kind of people would I meet? What do they really expect out of us this early in the journey? Am I even going to have any friends there? Fortunately, all of these worries were quelled on the first night when I met the other students, many of who had the same initial questions I did.

Our first task on the second day was to think of our own socially impactful business idea and present it to the group. This part proved to be trickier than I thought it would. After bouncing around ideas with new friends the night before that touched on various fields in social impact, I came up with a list that looked a little like this:

  1. Easily accessible and anonymous health education for young people?
  2. Püber – Uber, but the app beckons people to pick up your dog’s fecal matter.
  3. An app that gives you social impact ideas?
  4. ???

Obviously, I was having some trouble.

As we went around the room, each of us explaining our areas of interest and/or business ideas, I was struck by the amount of passion and intelligence in the room. Everyone had noticed a problem in their world worth solving, and I got my first true taste of the diversity of cultures and opinions at Kellogg.

Though I didn’t feel very confident about my own idea, I was fortunate enough to be saved by the brilliance of those around me and joined a group who already had a well-thought out problem to solve. We spent time late into the evening hammering out the solution before presenting it to the rest of the group the following day.

After all was said and done, there were countless lessons I was able to take away from the experience. Here are five of them:

  • Raj Karmani and Nicole Chavas took time out of their busy schedules to teach us about Zero Percent and Fresh Coast Capital, respectively. From them, I learned that great ideas are understood from the heart, and not from the bottom of a balance sheet.
  • From Professor David Schonthal, I learned that empathy is one of the most important tools an entrepreneur can have. He also taught us that success comes as much from the eraser as it does from the pencil.
  • From my business plan team, I learned that though one measure of success is choosing the right solution to a problem, another measure is being able to communicate ideas thoughtfully and in a way that everyone feels passionate about the choice.
  • From the business plan ideas we heard the final day, I learned that every one of us has something intelligent and important to contribute.
  • Finally, from the administrators and leaders of the event, I learned that I am fortunate to be in a place that has my back.

To me, social impact is simply another way to say change the world, and it is admittedly a tall order. With Kellogg and fellow classmates by my side, however, it’s not so tall that we can’t reach.

Smit Naik is a first year student in Kellogg’s Full-Time Two-Year MBA program. Prior to Kellogg, he taught at an education start-up and was a biomedical engineer.

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