Conference Aims to Ignite Innovation

Around 200 students, professionals, and academics from across the country arrived at Harvard on Saturday to attend the 3rd Annual Igniting Innovation Summit on social entrepreneurship.

“The purpose [of the summit] is to expose undergraduate students and members of the community to the contract of social entrepreneurship and to explore the idea that doing well and doing good are not mutually exclusive,” said summit co-chair Bari C. Saltman ’14, who is also a Crimson editor.

The summit is the largest undergraduate-run social entrepreneurship event at Harvard, lasting a total of 11 hours. This year’s theme was “Voice Your Passion” and featured 4 TED-style talks, 12 panel discussions, 6 self-expression workshops, and an innovation showcase by 53 leader-innovators.

“The idea is to ignite dialogue about our passions and aspirations to act and make an impact through people’s voices”, said past summit chair Kara M. Kubarych ’13. “It’s easy to want to do something but it’s harder to start the conversation and take action. The purpose of the summit is to spur people to take action and give them a forum to start conversation.”

The speakers varied in their fields and in the focus of their presentations. Andrew Slack, this year’s keynote speaker at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, said he was inspired by his love of Harry Potter books to “fight the Dark Arts in the real world” and founded a human rights activist group called The Harry Potter Alliance.

“In the book, Harry Potter starts Dumbledore’s army to fight injustice,” he said. “If Harry Potter lived in our world, he would start something similar to fight injustices like the genocide in Darfur and global warming.”

The summit attracted students interested in social entrepreneurship from other universities, as well. Eren Shultz traveled to Harvard from Clinton, New York with two other students from Hamilton College to attend the conference after reading about it in the Wall Street Journal.

“You have an amazing array of talented speakers. Other schools can’t facilitate something of this scale,” he said. “I hope that Harvard would reach out more to other schools, engage them, invite their students so they can make use of this fantastic resource.”

Since its inception in 2010, the Igniting Innovation conference has ballooned in the diversity of its speakers and the scope of its impact.

“Initially the summit was conceived as a way to connect people who already had business plans for social enterprises,” Saltman said. “Since then we’ve tried to expand our audience and appeal to students who aren’t even familiar with the field of social entrepreneurship, but are interested in career paths beyond finance and consulting.”

This year also saw the addition of two new events. The first is the Social Venture Challenge, a competition in which three winning teams will receive $3,000 to use towards the execution of their proposed social ventures. The second is the Eat for Equity Dinner, a fundraising dinner that benefits The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, an organization that provides entrepreneurial training to low-income youth.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: Oct. 9

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article stated that the theme of the 2012 Igniting Innovation Summit was “Follow Your Passion.” In fact, it was “Voice Your Passion.”

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