Highlights from the 2014 Irish Impact Social Entrepreneurship Conference

II special thanks

By bringing together over 400 registrants and 40 social enterprises, the 2014 Irish Impact Social Entrepreneurship Conference touched on a wider variety of topics than ever before. Dr. Jordan Kassalow (VisionSpring) showed us that even the most successful of social enterprises must constantly iterate and be open to business model transformations in order to achieve widespread social impact. Tom Carroll (Dalberg/Global Development Incubator) and Jimmy Bettcher (Cummins, Inc.) examined how one can contribute to sustainable social impact from social impact consulting and corporate social responsibility platforms. Ann Marie Conrado (Prof. of Industrial Design) urged us to adopt a design mindset, a human-centered, collaborative approach to problem solving. These individuals, along with many, many more, made this year’s conference a transformational experience. We are so grateful for all those who attended this year!

In addition to the many presentations and workshops, Irish Impact recognized four particular individuals and social enterprises who have contributed meaningfully and substantially to the field.

Keynote Speaker & Haley Prize winner, Dr. Jordan Kassalow

Keynote Speaker & Haley Prize winner, Dr. Jordan Kassalow

New this year, the Haley Prize recognizes an individual who has demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit and significant social impact. Award winners will have built social innovations from the ground-up, created scalable and replicable social impact, fought for financial sustainability, and acted as a true transformational change agent, partnering with universities, government, businesses and non-governmental organizations. The inaugural recipient of the Haley Prize for Social Entrepreneurship was Dr. Jordan Kassalow, co-founder of VisionSpring.

In Dr. Kassalow’s address, he shared the mission and formation of VisionSpring, telling stories of moments where he gave others vision and “they gave me mine”. By pursuing these kinds of moments over the last 30 years, he discovered that optical health in the developing world needed to be framed as an economic development issue in order for it to get the attention it deserved. For more information about Dr. Kassalow and his moving keynote, read more here.

Another award was presented at our Thursday evening reception. The 2014 Irish Impact Award went to Fr. Tom Streit, the founder and principal investigator of the ND Haiti Program. The Notre Dame Haiti Program (NDHP) has specifically targeted elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis (LF), a disease that affects roughly one-third of the Haitian population, by the year 2020. In 2010, multinational corporation Cargill joined the fight with a commitment of both imported salt and financial resources, tools necessary to fortify food sources and prevent LF. Joined by Cargill veteran Jim Reimer in 2012, the Notre Dame Haiti program has set forth a commercially viable plan to manufacture and distribute fortified food grade salt product from Port-au-Prince.

2014 Coffeehouse Favorite: JIFFI

2014 Coffeehouse Favorite: JIFFI

The final awards were presented Friday morning at the Zielsdorf Family Pitch Competition. We had the pleasure of hearing from Better Futures Minnesota, JIFFI, GiveGrowShare, Crisp!, Reading for Life, and YUGO. In this coffeehouse setting, attendees had an opportunity to select the “Coffeehouse Favorite” award winner. This year’s winner was JIFFI (Jubilee Initiative For Financial Inclusion), a non-profit financial services provider based in South Bend. Run exclusively by ND students, JIFFI provides micro-loans in the form of cash advances to replace predatory payday lending. The Financial Empowerment Program runs in conjunction with the loans in order to spread financial literacy, striving to achieve long-term economic goals.

Zielsdorf Family Pitch Competition Winner: Crisp!

2014 Zielsdorf Family Pitch Competition Winner: Crisp!

The principle award at the Zielsdorf Family Pitch Competition was voted and collaborated upon by our panel of esteemed judges. The 2014 award winner of the Zielsdorf Family Pitch Competition was Crisp! Mobile GrocerCrisp! is the affordable mobile grocer with over 300 items available for delivery right to your door. Their primary initiative is to provide Chicago residents access to fresh, healthy, local food, so communities no longer have to rely on unhealthy food providers to feed themselves and their families. A social enterprise started by Catholic Charities in Chicago, the judges conferred the prize on Crisp! for its potential to sustain its business model and to deliver significant social impact in food deserts.

With the third Irish Impact conference under our belt, we look forward with new ideas on how to stimulate and progress the social impact conversation. We are excited to announce that the theme for the 2015 Irish Impact Conference will be impact investing, a field we have watched with intrigue and some speculation over the last few years. In addition, we look forward to expanding the conference in new and innovative ways over the next year. Make sure to stay up to date with us on our social media platforms – you won’t want to miss what’s next!

Irish Impact Conference 2014

Irish Impact T-shirts produced by social enterprise, SustainU

Though the 2014 conference has come to a close, the discussion has just begun! Now more than ever, Irish Impact is a living, breathing initiative, an ongoing conversation between students, practitioners, and faculty about social entrepreneurship and its many facets. Look to the Irish Impact Facebook and Twitter for updates on events and news, article sharing and, of course, blog posts. We want to know what’s on your mind and where you see this field heading. If you would like to be featured on the Irish Impact blog, email us at irishimpactnd@gmail.com. 

Irish Impact is an initiative of the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship at the Mendoza College of Business and Fellow Irish Social Hub (FISH).


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