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Creating Sustainable Impact: A Summary of the 22nd Kravis de-Roulet Conference

Posted June 18, 2014 in News

By Claudia Raigoza ‘14

The 22nd Kravis-de Roulet Leadership Conference brought together some of the world’s most visionary leaders. This year’s conference, held at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) from February 28 to March 1, 2014, had a unique and inspiring topic within the leadership realm: “Leading Social Innovation: Models for Sustainable Impact.” The conference Chair, and Executive Director of the Kravis Leadership Institute, Sarah Smith Orr, described the choice to focus on the social sector as a deliberate one. As an attendee, I can attest to just how enlightening this choice proved to be. I realized the vastness of the social sector, and how it interrelates to many other non-social sectors. In general, the two-day event focused on creating an open dialogue between experts and novices alike— anyone interested in and passionate about social innovation was in excellent company. The conference convened scholars, social entrepreneurs, experts in the field, community leaders, and student changemakers to delve into the dimensions of social innovation.

The first day provided presenters and invited guests with the opportunity to grapple with some of the major issues plaguing our society in an informal, yet incredibly productive way. With attendees such as Susan Davis, Co-Founder, President and CEO of BRAC USA and CMC’s socially aware students, it was effortless to engage in thought-provoking conversations. In seeking realistic solutions to some of the world’s greatest problems, it is ideal to assemble the best team possible. Through a series of panels and roundtable discussions, attendees managed to set the stage for the weekend. The “hot topics” included how individuals were changing the social sector and how these changes can remain on an upward trajectory. Participants also explored the various fields that encompass the “social” realm. Overall, the meeting of the minds at this conference was truly remarkable.

By the second day, everyone was invigorated and ready to discuss how to create actual “Models for Sustainable Impact.” In her opening remarks, Smith Orr set the agenda for the day, stating, “Today we will hear from these leaders in innovation: how they have created and engaged a complex network of resources, building on the assets of a community to help solve some of the most daunting social problems in society.” Indeed, if there was one overarching lesson of the conferences it was that we are all on this journey together: all social leaders, no matter their expertise level, can learn something from one another.

The second day’s panels focused on social innovation in the particular areas of health, access, and education. However, the most interesting element was how these were interconnected—how the social component truly unites all of these seemingly distinct efforts. The keynote speaker was Professor H.I. Latifee, Managing Director of Grameen Trust for Grameen Bank, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. His discourse, entitled, “Sustainable Models for Poverty Alleviation Through Microfinance and Social Business,” highlighted the interconnectedness of non-social and social leadership. This idea illustrated a recent trend in the social sector in which businesses are adding a social initiative to their overall agenda.

While the attendees themselves are fantastic, one of the greatest distinguishing factors of the Kravis de-Roulet conference is the location: it is held on our beloved CMC campus in the Athenaeum. As a result, students have the opportunity to attend without any impediments of proximity. This year, each presenter and special guest was paired with a student host. Ted Hall ’16 described his experience hosting Dina Buchbinder of Deportes para compartir as “incredibly rewarding.” He elaborated further, saying,

As the host of Dina Buchbinder I was able to learn more about her organization as well as help introduce her to other guests who shared her passion for helping out the underprivileged youth. She had an amazing energy and naturally drew people to her and I loved being a part of that as it helped me understand how to truly be a leader. Her passion was so strong that I wished I had something that I believed in as much as she did.

Indeed, the opportunity to attend this conference allows students to learn about how to directly merge their general interests with social innovation and leadership. As a result, they leave with a better understanding of the vast scope of leadership and its effects.

Moreover, in examining how the topic of social innovation ties into the goals of CMC, Smith Orr explained, “Embedded in the ethos of CMC is a spirit of innovation, thinking out of the box, challenging the status quo, not just for the sake of challenge, but as a way of introducing new methods, new ways of tackling problems and identifying opportunities.” In order to illustrate this point, she turned to President Chodosh who was in attendance and said, “He is a leader who can envision and achieve goals stretching beyond the initial problem, in fact far beyond their organizational walls and national borders. He frames challenges and opportunities as global imperatives.”

In general, the Kravis-de Roulet Leadership Symposium concluded with a renewed sense of direction: the conversation was over, but the work had only just begun. In particular, students left better-informed and aware of the benefits of attending these types of events and engaging in these thought-provoking conversations. When asked about the prospects of participating in future conferences, Hall responded, “I am incredibly excited for next year’s conference as it is one of the most engaging experiences that KLI offers to CMC! It truly lets us understand what it means to be a global leader.”