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Net Impact Conference: Student Reflection

Published: 4 months ago | 0 comments

By Avni Mehta

Two weeks ago I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Net Impact Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. My trip was funded by Duke I&E and the multinational gas and oil company, Shell. While attending the conference, I participated in the Energy Transition Games, watched inspiring keynote speakers, and attended sessions hosted by top executives in the nonprofit and social entrepreneurship sectors.

The Energy Transition Games were a series of role-play challenges put forth by Shell to illustrate how the world’s energy system could evolve to provide a better life for its’ inhabitants. A group of around 40 undergraduate, graduate, and faculty mentors were divided into teams that represented different countries around the world. Within each country, each person had a role as a consumer, energy provider, government, NGO, or industry. Each role had different responsibilities and goals that would further the growth of the country in the energy sector and improve the quality of life for its’ consumers. The challenge took into consideration keeping the economy alive while making the transition from nonrenewable to renewable green energy. There were five rounds with different energy objectives in the challenge that the countries were meant to meet by discussing with each other and tactfully deciding how to spend its’ resources. Through the challenge, I gained a deeper understanding of the different entities involved in the energy sector and how one small move could affect thousands of lives. I also gained a better appreciation for all the different reasons the world should be transitioning to green energy. The Energy Transition Games acted as a backdrop to a competition that Shell hosts called the Future of Energy Challenge, a more innovation-based competition, which has participants design a novel way to provide more energy for a growing global population while reducing CO2 emissions. After participating in the Games at the Net Impact conference and connecting with many similar-minded students, I hope to build on the networks I made to assemble a team to compete in Shell’s Future of Energy Challenge.

Furthermore, I also attended a few breakout sessions during my downtime to branch out and learn more about social entrepreneurship. As a biomedical engineer at Duke, I don’t receive many opportunities to learn about industries outside the biotech and science realm, so attending the Net Impact conference was an extremely valuable and unique learning experience. A breakout session that I found especially interesting and impactful was one called “Behavior Change Behind Mainstream Impact Investing”. It was led by the CEO of The Case Foundation, Rehana Nathoo, and the panel style discussion basically focused on what impact investing is and how anyone can become an impact investor. Through the discussion I found the variability of impact investing very interesting. When you invest in “impact” which basically refers to any nonprofit organization, clean energy, or even local businesses, the risk is extremely high, but the investors are able to maintain a higher moral compass since they are investing in the “greater good”. For example, one panel speaker was the CMO of a company called Swell Investing. The company allows people to invest in one of their six portfolios that are comprised of companies that address global challenges such as green tech, renewable energy, clean water, zero waste, disease eradication, and healthy living. As a college student, the three main industries that we tend to hear most about for future careers are finance, consulting, and tech. After attending Net Impact, I realized how many more career options are out there that provide the same financial benefits while addressing global challenges. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend the Net Impact conference.

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