IESE Business School

Doing Good and Doing Well

Over the course of the conference, participants learn and debate about relevant topics in responsible business, share their own experiences, network with like-minded people and connect with potential employers through the Career Forum. The Doing Good and Doing Well Conference was the first of its kind in Europe.

Issues tackled in the panels include Social Entrepreneurship, Microfinance, Healthcare, Energy & Environment, Social Investment, Development and Careers. The conference benefits all people who are interested in promoting and advancing responsible business in all sectors.

The Cleantech Venture Seminar was a newly created initiative of the DGDW Conference. It brings together selected industry entrepreneurs with some of the world’s finest venture capitalists (VCs) in an exciting pitching and Q&A format. This innovation of the conference raises awareness of clean technology as well as facilitates the investment of early-stage start-ups that have developed disruptive technology solutions to improve the productive and responsible use of natural resources.

In light of recent events in the global economy, this year’s conference theme was “Doing Good When We Are Not Doing So Well—Creating Sustainable Value in a Downturn.” Our speakers discussed the tough decisions leaders are facing during this economic downturn and explored the business case for continued commitment to social and environmental responsibility.

In 2003, an entrepreneurial-minded IESE student had an idea: organize an international business conference on responsible business to discuss the triple bottom line (economic, social, and environmental). He envisioned that such a program at a leading MBA school could have a huge impact on each graduate, who could in turn influence his/her organization as a future business leader. This idea became a reality when two forward-thinking IESE students Heather Blahnik and Emma Coles grew the idea and turned it into action. The first DGDW conference successfully debuted in 2004, and the following year, the keynote speaker was Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the father of microfinance.

Over the past six years, the conference has transformed into a major force in raising awareness of key issues in responsible business, and has inspired thousands of graduate business students and professionals to leverage their skills for positive social impact. Doing Good and Doing Well is now the largest student-run conference on responsible business in Europe.

The Doing Good and Doing Well conference is not a required component of the MBA program. It is an annual event entirely driven by the enthusiasm, hard work and spirit of IESE students who want to help change the world through responsible leadership.

The DGDW Conference is headed by the Responsible Business Club of IESE, but it is largely a collaborative effort among many student clubs. For example, the Healthcare club contributed their network of contacts to garnering speakers for the Healthcare panel, the Energy Club contributed their ideas on creating the Cleantech Seminar, and the Social Action club dedicated time and contacts to the conference.

IESE provided support through several channels. Career Services provided the person in charge of Responsible Business careers, who offered contacts for potential speakers and Career Forum participants. Several faculty members volunteered to be panel moderators. The school offered facilities for the panels, dinners and refreshment breaks. IESE as a whole provided excellent supplementary support, but their approach was to let the students drive the initiative without any institutional decision-making.

Business Principles
The DGDW conference was built on five key business principles. 

  1. Teamwork was essential in making the conference a reality. Due to its large scale, teams were created to manage various aspects of the conference. Additionally, with the students’ already busy schedules, everyone relied on each other to contribute their part to meet deadlines and objectives. The conference would not have happened without the collaborative effort of the Marketing, Logistics, Speaker, Website, Sponsorship, Cleantech, and Career Forum teams.
  2. Cross-cultural understanding is a must in an environment of 50 nationalities, multiple mother tongues and very different cultural habits. Individuals worked together successfully because of their cultural awareness and respect for each other’s unique perspectives. Attracting people from around the world, cross-cultural understanding was again vital in achieving a truly international event.
  3. Commitment to service and making a positive impact is part of the mission of IESE Business School, and it was embodied in the spirit of the DGDW Conference as well. The reason that so many students volunteered to help out with the conference is because they believed and promoted the idea that future and current business leaders must give back to society and leverage their skills to create a positive impact. This was the principle on which the conference was founded.
  4. Professionalism was a key principle throughout the development of the conference. Because of the amount of interaction internally and externally, maintaining a professional standard was crucial in ensuring an efficient working environment and in gaining credibility with potential partners.
  5. Dedication was the engine that drove the conference from being an enormous task to a successful, well-run international event. IESE business students bear a heavy workload that demands good time management and prioritizing. Because of their dedication, the conference volunteers all made personal sacrifices throughout the year to ensure that the final result was one they would be proud of.

As is the case with social value creation, the short and long-term social benefits of the conference are immense, but at the same time challenging to quantify. Since 2006, the number of conference attendees has more than doubled, bringing the number of people impacted by this year’s conference to over 650. Having access to nearly 30 hours of discussion and learning spread over 18 panels and 76 speakers, the immediate social benefits are increased awareness and knowledge exchange among the 650 attendees. Since its inception, the conference has raised awareness of responsible business issues to over 2000 individuals. The effect of those individuals’ impact on their own networks and organizations is ongoing, creating a long-term benefit to society through a never-ending cycle of positive social impact.

This year, the conference brought together participants from 40 universities, 139 companies and more than 40 different sectors. 64% of the IESE student body attended the conference, and 62% of attendees were non-IESE students. A Facebook group created for the conference connects over 400 members, facilitating further collaboration and knowledge exchange, perpetuating the benefits of the conference.

Of the eight start-ups that participated in the Cleantech Venture Seminar, four entered into talks with VCs, and of the four, two were in advanced talks with the VCs.

At least 19 students were offered interviews with potential employers through the Career Forum, and one has already received an offer with the William J. Clinton Foundation. Thirteen new organizations have signed on to partner with IESE’s Career Services team for recurring recruiting, which translates to more responsible business career opportunities for IESE MBA students.

One attendee demonstrates the short-term benefit of building new connections and the long-term social benefit of employment in his testimonial: “I really loved connecting with other MBA students…. I also made a great connection with one of the panelists in the industry I hope to work for one day - tourism.” Another attendee also left with immediate and long-term impacts, remarking of the conference, “great networking opportunity, very inspiring message to leave with for a social entrepreneur.”

By challenging participants to consider the potential for sustainable business, the Doing Good and Doing Well Conference helps develop innovative strategies and business models, and fosters meaningful relationships between industry professionals and graduate students. Each year, the conference continues to grow and increase its impact on the business world, proving that doing good and doing well are not mutually exclusive.

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