have all heard that networking can enhance our careers. The
personal relationships that we make can help to land a job
and open doors to new opportunities while also providing good
friendships along the way. The bottom line is that we can
partner with others to foster career growth.
Net Impact, a not-for-profit organization involving more than 5,000
individuals, has taken a cue from the basic networking philosophy.
Net Impact is a network of emerging business leaders committed
to using the power of business to create a better world. Since
its founding in 1993 as Students for Responsible Business (SRB),
Net Impact has grown to include more than 60 chapters on college
and university campuses across the country and, internationally,
600 alumni and numerous corporate partners.
According to Laurie Gray, Net Impacts interim director, the
organization has held true to its mission. We were started
by a group of MBA students interested in alternative business careerscareers
outside of Wall Street or the traditional corporate arena. They
wanted to more fully explore business opportunities in not-for-profit
and community and social organizations. Those who established our
organization also wanted to address what they saw as a lack of attention
to sustainability, environmental, social and community issues in
most MBA programs.
Net Impacts founders focused on several core programs to help
spread its message while providing opportunities for the organizations
members. First, they established an internship program with companies
that had a strong community, social or environmental focus. They
believed the internships would provide a way for participants to
explore alternative business careers while also exposing the sponsoring
company to the organizations beliefs. An annual conference
to address the organizations core issues with MBA students,
college and university business faculty and business leaders (see
sidebar) was also an important element. Finally, the organization
established student chapters on college and university campuses
to provide on-going networking and support opportunities.
Our internship program has been extremely successful,
says Gray. Weve had more than 600 individuals successfully
complete internships during the past eight years. They have worked
at companies of all sizes and types and have also opened the doors
for others to follow in their footsteps. Weve been very pleased
with the results.
How It Works
Net Impact recruits sponsoring companies, a list that has included
Starbucks, Calvert Social Investment Foundation, Sustainable Conservation,
Greystone Bakery and the Womens Initiative for Self-Employment,
among a host of others, through its Web site, at the annual conference,
through its alumni and by word of mouth. Companies that are interested
participating must design a program for the interns and submit an
organization application, a process that usually begins in the fall.
Net Impact subsequently contacts the organizations to qualify and
refine the projects and then publishes the project descriptions
on Net Impacts Web site (www.net-impact.org) and through career
development offices at more than 100 business schools.
At the beginning of the year, individuals interested in becoming
interns begin the application process. (Students between the first
and second years of their MBA programs traditionally participate
in Net Impacts internship program during their summer break.)
Those applying for internships do not have to be a long-standing
member of Net Impact or a student chapter; however, they must join
the organization, which is free, by completing an on-line application
process that takes approximately five minutes. In addition to completing
the student application form, individuals must select a specific
project or projects that they would like to participate in during
Net Impact forwards résumés that it has received from
student applicants to sponsoring organizations, which
then review the applications
and contact all candidates. Interviews are scheduled with selected
students; students that are not selected for interviews are also
notified. Once a match has been made, the organization and the student
work out the terms of the internship. Net Impact recommends a minimum
salary of $5,000 for not-for-profits and $7,000 from for-profit
organizations for a 10-week internship. Prior to beginning the internship,
students participate in a three-day orientation workshop sponsored
by Net Impact that combines panel discussions and skills training
in networking to help lay the groundwork for a successful internship.
What They Do
Net Impact interns participate in a variety of projects involving
sales, marketing, investing, manufacturing and human resource issues.
Sample projects include drafting a business plan to launch a not-for-profit
social venture property management business; creating a marketing
strategy to increase community awareness; researching micro-enterprise
programs as a method of poverty elimination; and analyzing manufacturing
processes to identify more sustainable production alternatives.
During their first week at the sponsoring organization, interns
create a project plan, which is then followed by the implementation
of the project. Reports are written during the last week of the
project and are submitted to Net Impact for use in reports to participating
organizations and financial contributors. Both interns and sponsoring
organizations complete evaluations for Net Impact following completion
of the internship. These are reviewed, compiled and used as feedback
to improve the program.
The Voice of Experience
Seth Goldman, president of Honest Tea, has experienced all facets
of the Net Impact equation. He was a member of the first official
Net Impact internship class, formalized the Net Impact chapter
at Yale University where he attended graduate school, served on
the organizations board of directors and now sponsors interns
at his company.
Being a Net Impact intern opened up a whole new world regarding
career opportunities for me, Goldman says. Initially
I thought that I wanted to have a not-for-profit focus for my career.
The internship that I participated in showed me that I could combine
a strong social, community and environmental focus in the for-profit
Goldman completed his internship at the Calvert Group where he looked
at socially responsible investment in China as part of the companys
venture capital portfolio. He also analyzed a new fund on sustainable
development in Eastern Europe.
My internship whetted my appetite for becoming an entrepreneur,
says Goldman. During it, I also analyzed the first business
plan for Wild Planet Toys, an opportunity that the Calvert Group
ultimately pursued. The company, which is run by Danny Grossman,
who helped to get Net Impact rolling, sought to engage children
in environmental discovery. It showed me that good business and
socially responsible operating and investment approaches could go
Honest Tea markets and manufactures organic bottled iced tea and
tea bags and is the leading natural foods producer of iced tea.
In addition to focusing on sustainability as part of its manufacturing
process, the company is actively involved with community programs
that are designed to help disadvantaged areas and individuals. The
companys bottling plant is in a disadvantaged area of Pennsylvania,
and one of the companys organic teas is marketed and manufactured
in partnership with the Crow Indians.
Goldman notes that Honest Tea interns participate in virtually every
aspect of the companys business. This year, interns conducted
a socially responsible analysis of its business practices; analyzed
Fair Trade policies relative to production of a Fair Trade tea;
reviewed packing to help move the company away from the use of a
polysynthetic covering for tea bag packages; and went on the road
with Honest Teas van to promote products to various communities.
All Honest Tea interns report directly to Goldman and spend a great
deal of time with all of the companys leaders. Interns receive
base compensation and are also eligible for two bonus programsone
related to their personal performance and one related to the companys
financial performance as a whole.
In addition to providing opportunities for future business
leaders to test their areas of interest while gaining experience,
we receive a great deal from our interns, Goldman concludes.
They come to work for us during our busiest season, which
provides us with highly-motivated individuals during a peak time.
Equally important, they bring to us an energy and enthusiasm that
is contagious. Its a win-win situation for everyone.
What the Future Holds
Net Impact is currently in the midst of a transition. The organization
has become a project of Business for Social Responsibility (BSR)
to more fully meet the needs of interns and sponsoring organizations.
While changes will take place, Net Impact will continue to make
its mark on individuals and businesses by opening the doors to business
approaches and careers that have sustainability, social and community
issues at their forefront.