Impactathon 18: Virtual Distancing and Virtual Convening to Make a Whole Experience

Impactathon® 18 with Soka University of America hosted by Bridges to Business took place virtually (with an on-campus presence) on February 2-4, 2022.

After a kickoff session involving socially distanced speed networking and masks on campus and then moved to virtual with an introductory workshop on social enterprise over Zoom. Students began the ‘teaming’ process of identifying topics, team members and complementary strengths.

The next day included three virtual Impact Talks by practicing social entrepreneurs, representing a mix of business models, stages, and kinds of impact. The day also included mini-workshops on introduction to startup finances, intro to pitching, and intro to problem mapping.

Interspersed during the day were blocks of time for teams to work on their pitch deck and practice pitches with the event team, who are all social entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, and also with each other. We used tools like a “Dashboard” with quick links and low tech message board to create a more uniform experience and make navigating between virtual and in-person a little smoother.

Many teams worked late into the night or awoke early as they prepared for final pitches on the 3rd day. Judges gathered online and teams shared screens and delivered their pitches and slides over a few minutes and then stayed on to answer questions from judges for an additional few minutes.


Students engaging in social distanced networking

Zoom screenshot from an Impact Talk showing students and speaker

Watch the Pitches


Meet the Teams

Team Name One-line description Team members
Double A Energy Online platform for young artists and community members to display art and contribute towards mitigating light pollution and saving marine life Alisa, Aarohee
Prabashi Sathi

“Friends of Immigrants”

Bridging the gap between the Nepali immigrants and the concerned authorities for efficient communication, help, and support. Anjan, 



Food 4 Fund A mobile application for rescuing food loss from restaurants. Preme,


Embracing the Red


Destigmatizing Menstruation in Nepal through education and awareness using Me-Box, a box containing products and information related to menstruation. Paridhi, 



The Tre Project A non-profit project providing affordable eco-friendly, locally-sourced sanitary pads to Vietnamese ethnic minority groups Carmen, Chau
AhotɔHealth AhotɔHealth is a technology-powered patient management platform that streamlines healthcare delivery and maximizes healthcare outcomes through facilitated access to medical services, affordable prescription medicines, and patient advocacy services. Anthony, Finleyrose, Kelvin,  Baffour
Savvy Govvy A Citizen-Centric Appointment Scheduling Software for Government in Vietnam Thuy, Abigail
Enjovu Paper Enjovu Paper raises awareness for endangered elephants by recycling elephant dung and producing paper products. Anthea, Yixin, Qiankuan


Each team has incredible promise and work ahead. The judges recognized the following teams with awards:


Award Winners

1st Place Social Impact Award

  • Embracing the Red (ME-BOX)
  • Enjovu Paper

2nd Place Social Impact Award

  • Food 4 Fund
  • AhotɔHealth

Most Ready to Go-to-Market Award

  • Savvy Govvy

People’s Choice Award

  • Enjovu Paper


Impactathon event flyer with photos of Impact Talk Speakers, Judges, and Catalysts

Impact Talk Speakers

Impact Talks:

  • jacob adams, STEM to the Future
  • Nisha Desai, Ennuity Holdings
  • David Ochi, V1 Ventures
  • Rachel Connors, Yellow Leaf Hammocks


  • Melody Estrada of Me&Co.
  • Dave Landa of Kintone
  • Tom Havens of HALO Branded Solutions
  • Shaheen Sheik-Sadhal of Esse Law, PC
  • Isabelle Bart, of Smartpreneur Women
  • Brian Walker of Picture Motion


Screenshot of Judges of Impactathon 18 on Zoom

Impact Workshops

  • Introduction to Social Enterprise
  • Problem-Mapping
  • Social Enterprise Pitch
  • Financials for Startups


About Impactathon for Future Flourishing

Impactathon for Future Flourishing was organized as an interactive 24-hour hackathon experience to innovate inclusive solutions to global poverty amid covid-19 and rising awareness of the importance of building more inclusive systems. It took place on Aug 21-22, 2020. Participants joined as teams or individually to build social impact solutions. Cash prizes for top teams included $2000+, as well as non-monetary prizes included will be awarded to top teams.


Impactathon for Future Flourishing event image with Impactathon logo and black and white photos of Impact Catalysts

About this Event

Impactathon® for Future Flourishing was a call to all changemakers and social entrepreneurs driven to find new ways to uplift communities and alleviate poverty in a post-pandemic world.

Participants from hubs around the world joined for a two-day virtual Impactathon where they deepened their understanding about what causes poverty locally and globally and worked in teams to develop solutions.

Poverty, in this moment

Since launching this unique Impactathon in early June, covid19 cases surged and systemic racism emerged as a global movement. Poverty is a critical part of this story. Estimates for global poverty have been increased by 50M attributed to covid-19 (Brookings).

An Impactathon focusing on the mindset of “building an inclusive future”

For Impactathon for Future Flourishing, the 16th Impactathon, Innov8social collaborated with Join the Journey, an international empowerment organization, to take participants on a journey of discovery– diving into realities much of the world faces living day-to-day without stable electricity, water, and paved roads–and exploring how covid-19 affects these issues. Teams worked together to ask questions, research existing solutions, identify gaps, and brainstorm and build approaches to build a thriving future using innovative strategies and existing technologies in a sprint-to-the-finish 24-hour push. Top solutions were awarded cash and other prizes.

Participants heard from a handful of speakers and Impact Catalysts who have started social enterprises and impact organizations that have helped hundreds of thousands of people. You can tune into the recordings to hear their candid experiences in how they navigated unique challenges with an entrepreneurial mindset.

This event did not require a background in social impact. Participants were asked to bring their deep curiosity, a sense of empathy, and a problemsolving mindset. Through Impactathon,  an Impact Workshop walked participants through an introduction to social enterprise and design-thinking approaches to understanding a problem and developing solutions. This Impactathon was designed for those who have ever felt a deep desire to create positive impact, whether locally in their city or globally for the world.

Impact Talk Speakers

  • Mike Sehzue, Partner at Global SouthxSouth, Founder of Miseh Distilling Company. Social Entrepreneur, Impact Investing Advisor.
  • Julie-Anne Savarit-Cosenza, Founder & Executive Director of the African Education Program. Systems thinker in poverty alleviation.
  • Daniel Jean-Louis, President and CEO of Bridge Capital S.A. Social Entrepreneur & Investor.

Impact Catalysts and Panel Speakers

  • Ezenwayi Amaechi, PhD, Assistant Professor, Entrepreneurship, Johnson & Wales University, Market Strategist. Social Entrepreneur.
  • Spencer Arnold, Director of Global Operations, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University.
  • Heather Arora, M.S. in Organizational Behavior, Founder of Purple Plants. Impact Ecosystem Builder.
  • Anita Balaraman, Product Management and Marketing Consultant. Social Entrepreneur.
  • Marc Alain Boucicault, Founder and CEO at Banj. Impact Ecosystem Builder.
  • David Babbs, PhD Social Work (Social Innovation), Activist, Macro, Veteran. Educator.
  • Brendan Barbato, Startup pitch expertise, Brand & Partnerships. Social Entrepreneur.
  • Chuck Brown, Founder of Orion Consulting, Social Enterprise Alliance Board Member. Impact Ecosystem Builder.
  • Nick Brown, Founder at Clear Purchase. International Payment System Expert.
  • Sam C. Burke, Brand Communications and Marketing. Impact Ecosystem Builder.
  • Theresa L Carpenter, Navy Public Affairs Officer, Communication Professional, Advocate for women and companion animals.
  • Adam Cole, Founder of Join the Journey. Social Entrepreneur.
  • Sylvia Doss, Data-driven Strategic Consultant, Senior Adjunct Professor at Golden Gate University.
  • Gloria Ferrer, International Economic Development Specialist, Partner at COMPETITIVENESS. Founder of KINADONA. Social Entrepreneur.
  • Miloni Gandhi, Founder and Principal International LLC, Adjunct Faculty Foothill College. Impact Ecosystem Builder.
  • Nathaniel Gilman, Co-founder of Mariner Credential Service. Social Entrepreneur.
  • Michael Gordon, Professor of Social Entrepreneurship, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan.
  • Flossie Hall, COO Assoc.Military Spouse Entrepreneurs. Social Entrepreneur.
  • Andrew Hening, Co-founder Opening Doors Marin, Director of Homeless Planning & Outreach San Rafael. Systems Thinker.
  • Prasad Jaladi, Chief Facilitator of Suraksha.Social Entrepreneur.
  • Cate Johnson, Founder ArborRevolutions, Innovation Catalyst, Advisor, Facilitator. Impact Ecosystem Builder.
  • Mary Patrick Kavanaugh, Director of Special Projects at Soka University. Impact Ecosystem Builder.
  • Michelle Kurian, Executive Director of The Harvest Fund. Social Entrepreneur.
  • Ramon Llamas, MPH, Population Health Strategy at Everytable
  • Mark Lovett, Founder of Storytelling with Impact, TEDx organizer. Impact Storyteller.
  • Mwihaki Muraguri, Storysmith, Principal at Paukwa House. Impact Storyteller.
  • KP Naidu, VP Benetech Labs. Poverty Alleviation Systems Thinker.
  • Pamela O’Brien, Director of Development at African Education Program, International Development Strategist.
  • Adeniyi Oluokun, Co-founder at Consulting Youth, Co-founder at Access Drive. Social Entrepreneur.
  • Mark Papia, Head of Content & Communications at iMerit Technology Services. Social Intrapreneur.
  • Neetal Parekh, Founder of Innov8social, Host of the Impact Podcast, Author. Impact Ecosystem Builder.
  • Leena Patel, MD, MPH, Senior Technical Officer, Public Health Professional
  • Jean-Louis Robadey, Principal Company at Impact Consulting Group LLC. Impact Ecosystem Builder.
  • Larry Simpson, Join the Journey Board Member, Puget Sound & Family Ministry Field Representative.
  • Brian Walker, Founder of Culture Bridge, Social Intrapreneur. Social Impact Ecosystem Builder.
  • Leon Wang, M.S. in Biomimicry, ABAR Intersectional Environmentalist. Impact Ecosystem Builder.
  • Gillian Foster Wilkinson, Microfinance Learning Manager at HOPE International. Microfinance Specialist.


  • Radha Basu, CEO of iMerit Technology Services, Founder of Frugal Innovation Lab at Santa Clara University.
  • Will Harris, CEO of Willpower Consulting, Chairman of Willpower Humanitarian Foundation.
  • Grace Rodriguez, CEO/Executive Director of Impact Hub Houston, Advisor to Social Enterprises
  • Eric Van Trump, Board Member at Join the Journey, Entrepreneur.


Topic-based Panel Discussions

Informal topical panel talks with various Impact Catalysts were recorded to dive deeper into aspects of poverty alleviation (in developing and developed countries), economic empowerment, social enterprise and impact storytelling.

These talks were shared with Impactathon participants ahead of the start of the virtual Impactathon as a way to learn about topics, meet the Impact Catalysts, gain an introduction into the ‘systems view’ of poverty alleviation, and to being to think like problemsolvers.



Join the Journey awarded cash prizes to top teams. Additionally, Impact Hub Houston awarded three 3-month Accelerate Memberships along with mentoring and pro bono consulting hours awarded by Sponsors.


Who Attended Impactathon for Future Flourishing

  • Social entrepreneurs with proven ideas and traction who are looking to scale their work.
  • Student changemakers
  • Young Professionals looking to learn more about social enterprise
  • Experienced/retired professionals seeking to leverage expertise for social good
  • The active-duty and veteran tech community
  • Faith-based groups seeking to serve through social innovation


Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.

SDG Goal 1 is Eliminating Poverty. From the UN, “The decline of global extreme poverty continues, but has slowed…. People who continue to live in extreme poverty face deep, entrenched deprivation often exacerbated by violent conflicts and vulnerability to disasters. Strong social protection systems and government spending on key services often help those left behind get back on their feet and escape poverty, but these services need to be brought to scale.”


Open to All

Impactathon for Future Flourishing was open to all participants and is not based upon participant race, religion, ethnicity, socio-economic background, sexuality, and gender.


Watch the Panel Talk Videos

About Join the Journey

Join the Journey (JTJ) is a faith-based empowerment organization that provides crowd-sourced micro-loans to entrepreneurs in vulnerable parts of the world. The impact organization recently launched Spark, a mobile application that is a platform to match entrepreneurs and potential donors. JTJ was founded in 2010 by a military servicemember whose experiences serving in the Haiti relief mission post-earthquake there inspired him to work on behalf of the most hurting.


About Innov8social

Innov8social creates experiences, content, training, and tools to make social entrepreneurship and impact leadership more accessible and actionable. This includes The Impact Podcast and book, 51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship, and Impactathon® event series. Its mission is to help individuals and organizations reach their impact potential. Innov8social has partnered to co-convene 15 Impactathons in cities including San Francisco, New York City, Aliso Viejo, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Baton Rouge.

Impactathon is a registered trademark of Innov8social.



Cheers to a successful Impactathon® #11 in partnership with UCLA Anderson and The SAM Initiative! After successive rounds of pitching, $20,000 in grants were awarded to eight social enterprise teams and founders.

We gave participants the challenge of ‘showing up’ as impact-driven problem-solvers. They delivered.

Over two days, participants heard from incredible Impact Talk speakers on various aspects of addressing social impact and were introduced to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as from a practitioner who is doing the work of scaling a social enterprise. They learned about logic models and impact gap analysis from a UCLA Anderson professor.

And, they pitched. Three times! First, each participant– to the tune of over 40– shared brief ‘elevator’ pitches while forming teams. Then, 17 teams and founders pitch their social enterprise ideas in two-minute pitches the following day to three judges including faculty and practitioners. Finally, with less than an hour in between, eight teams and founders shared four-minute pitches to six judges, including funders from The SAM Initiative and industry experts.

Congratulations to every participant for being part of the experience and staying ‘in the arena‘ to develop impact-driven ideas, pursue feedback, and iterate. We encourage Impactathoners to take a long view of their work and keep finding ways to move it forward. Thank you to the speakers, funders, catalysts, volunteers, co-organizers, and participants for making the event possible! And a special thank you to the Innov8social team, including Jaco and Pavel for your instrumental work and dedication.


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David setting up for the first round of pitches at #Impactathon. . . . #goanddo #ecosystembuilding #socialenterprise

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Announcing the Impactathon UCLA Anderson 2019 Award Recipients

  • Best Overall: Simple Gardens ($6,000). A turn-key urban garden solution combining art and gardening for an in-home food growing system.
  • Most Likely to Create Impact: One Million Acres ($5,000).  A buy-one-save-one program that has already protected 4K acres of rainforest through the sale of handmade bracelet from indigenous communities.
  • Championing Reducing Inequalities (SDG 10): Infinite Flow ($2,000).  A professional dance group that champions dancers across ability, furthering core values of inclusion and diversity.
  • Championing Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11): U Build Ur World ($2,000).  A social worker and veteran founder pitching innovative, affordable housing in the form of microvillages for veterans.
  • Championing Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7): Kilowatt Killer ($1,000).  A team includeing a retired high school teacher and high school students reducing CO2 emissions through a radically affordable, patented home cooling system.
  • Championing Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG 12): 50 Alt 50 ($1,000).  Produce shopping app that identifies local farm options for consumers.
  • Most Innovative Changemaker: Unpacking Racism in Healthcare ($500).  An app to inform and let users report instances of racism within the healthcare system.
  • Best Problem-Mapping: Re-coop ($500).  Online platform to match users with cooperative housing options.
  • People’s’ Choice Award: One Million Acres ($2,000)


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#Impactathon award recipients announced at #ImpactWeek closing ceremonies @uclaanderson. . . #socialimpact #pitches #problemmapping

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The Themes for Impactathon Anderson 2019

This year’s Impactathon at UCLA Anderson focused on the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

Social entrepreneurs working to create or advance good health and well-being; sustainable cities and communities; and/or responsible consumption and production, were especially encouraged to apply. The UN Sustainable Goals (SDG’s) were launched in 2015 to address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity and peace and justice.

Who Attended

Impactathon was attended by a diverse group of individuals. It included, social entrepreneurs with proven ideas and traction who are looking to scale their work. UCLA undergraduate and graduate students and other business leaders seeking to share their skills with existing teams. Local undergraduate and graduate school students studying or interested in engaging in the social impact sector. Individuals seeking to learn about social impact and social entrepreneurship, map a problem, and ideate solutions to a local or global issue



Neetal Parekh, Founder of Innov8social, Author of 51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship, Host of The Impact Podcast by Innov8social, Convener of Impactathon®

Impact Talks


Gayle Northrop, Lecturer at UCLA Anderson and Senior Advisor of Impact@Anderson, President and Principal at Northrop Consulting.


  • Kat Karimi, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Civic Innovation Lab
  • Leah Nanni, Founder & Program Manager of The Art of Smart Tutoring, Consultant at Startup UCLA




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Lightning Round Judges listening in to 17 #pitches at #Impactathon! . . #goanddo #ecosystembuilding #socialenterprise

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About Impact Week at Anderson

In its 5th year and with the theme Purpose + Profits, Impact Week at UCLA Anderson focused on building a robust bridge to local issues in Southern California as well as global issues. Recognizing that some of the best ideas to solve social challenges come from the communities in which those challenges persist, Impact@Anderson believes social innovation and entrepreneurship must bridge the gap between community and classroom.

About The SAM Initiative

Founded in 2013 by Mindy Freedman, the SAM Initiative is a group of individuals who have pooled their financial resources and experience to fund and support exceptional and innovative programs in Los Angeles that promote social change and benefit women, children and families. The SAM Initiative was founded on the belief that we have more impact together than we have alone. Together, we strive to educate and engage donors by investing in community-based organizations that reflect our passions and address the most pressing needs in our community.

About Impactathon®

Innov8social partners with mission-driven companies, institutions, and foundations to bring together individuals together for Impactathons, interactive social impact events that catalyze collaboration, innovation, working in teams, and pitching social impact solutions for feedback and potential recognition.

Impactathon has partnered to deliver 11 Impactathons in cities including San Francisco, New York City, Aliso Viejo, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Baton Rouge.


Interested in convening an Impactathon for your university, foundation, company or event? Let’s connect.




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Almost go time! #impactathon @uclaanderson . . #goanddo

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I just finished co-teaching Gen Z students in a 3 week immersive, intensive, experiential course on social enterprise on as part of the Summerfuel Social Enterprise program at Stanford University. My students were 14-18 years olds hailing from all of over the US and countries including China, Brazil, Spain, Japan, France, and Russia. The one thing they had in common was an interest or curiosity in social entrepreneurship.

The experience of teaching for the better part of 5 hours each day taught me a few interesting things. About working with Generation Z students. About teaching. And, about how social enterprise is received and can be shared. I wanted to share a few of the most actionable takeaways here.

Gen Z students, who are they?

An article in Huffington Post notes, “Generation Z, as they have been coined, consists of those born in 1995 or later. This generation makes up 25.9% of the United States population, the largest percentage, and contribute $44 billion to the American economy. By 2020, they will account for one-third of the U.S. population.”

To say that this generation is our future is no understatement.

I was most curious about how they might identify problems and issues that they find compelling. Many American Gen Z-ers have had formative years under a different political administration, were youngsters during the “Great Recession” when it happened, and have grown up with technology and social media in a markedly different way than generations before them.

Additionally, many students in my class grew up familiar with social impact brands such as TOMS and Warby Parker. I was surprised to note that most had not heard of the Grameen Bank, Kiva, or microfinance. And, many mentioned that they do research companies before making purchases and in the past have chosen (or not chosen) to buy something based on the company’s core values, impact, or past actions. I was also humbled to note that none of these bright, globetrotting teenage problemsolvers had ever heard of my website Innov8social, podcast, or book (though they did each leave with a Kindle version:). Ah, so is the harsh reality of truth.

Our “accomplishments” aren’t received in the way we think they might be

Perhaps it is a consequence of living in a world lit by social media—with its abundance of celebrities, influencers, experts, gurus, and chief-of-somethings. Or, the fact that we have all become creators in one sense or another; but I found that my Gen Z students were not easily impressed.

Definitely not by my background—author, speaker, social entrepreneur, licensed attorney. These things didn’t “show up” for them in a relatable way. Additionally, we had an amazing host of speakers—many of whom are dear friends and colleagues in the social enterprise sector. And, after each speaker, I debriefed with students and noticed a broader trend.

“Accomplishments” to these accomplished, motivated, and pre-career students were a bit empty on their own. It was our stories that connected the dots for them and made what we have done with our time come to life. It was sharing our essential “why” that helped things make more sense.

When I shared with them how my mother’s fight with cancer has instilled a sense of urgency in my work, how moving over a dozen times growing up has affected the way I relate to the world, and my own deep questions about the future of social entrepreneurship in the current climate, I saw them open up in a different way. They shared a few of their own stories and connected the dots about “why” this topic or space matters at all. And more importantly, why it matters to them personally.

When our speakers shared their journeys and the perceived vulnerabilities that have become their strengths and the core of their social enterprises, the students were able to receive and process that differently and in the context of their own journeys.

It was a gentle reminder to me, that in a world with so much digital noise, our authenticity remains our key currency.

Teachers are master innovators

It’s after lunch and the only thing standing between twenty-five teenagers and a sunny California summer afternoon in Palo Alto is your one-and-half hour class. Good luck, right?


Our daily afternoon classes were among the most challenging to plan for considering there was often a significant amount of content, but also that attention spans seemed to decrease exponentially as the minutes ticked by.

I learned to innovate in a few creative ways. If I saw eyes glazing over or the twitching of fingers under the desk (yes, students, I could definitely tell when you were surreptitiously using your phones ;-) I would make up activities on the spot to put them back in the driver’s seat. Questions with partners or practice pitches or “getting out of the building” to gather user feedback. These activities did more than command attention, they gave them a chance to be in the familiar role of creator once more.

My ‘innovations’ sometimes fell flat too. Thinking that content might be more appealing using short videos, I embedded somewhat frequent 1-5 minute videos in my slide deck and utilized a few TED talks already part of the curriculum. Though we discussed each video after, student feedback at the end of the course was that there were too many videos. More interaction please, they suggested.

All of these experiences make me deeply appreciate all of the teachers, instructors, and professors who taught and continue to teach us. Like how our elementary school teachers likely consider what they teach based on the relation of the class session to recess or lunch. Or how summer camp counselors trade stories with each other to come up with the most fun and engaging team building activities. Or how every single undergraduate and law school professor knows that when our laptops are open, and in-between taking notes, we were reading the news or checking our email—and they adjust their lectures to engage us and hold our attention in different ways.

Entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs are recognized and rewarded for innovations that serve as unique solutions to persistent problems. Teachers innovate and problemsolve on a daily—if not hourly—basis, in part, because their user feedback isn’t a survey, poll, or questionnaire away—it is their class of students right in front of them, IRL, and in real time.

Good and 10% better, go ahead and ask

When I attended a public speaking workshop called “Own the Room”, one of the presenting groups ended their mini pitch with two questions that have reshaped how I ask for feedback. They asked “What did we do well?” followed by “what can we do to be 10% better?” Boom.

The elegance and effectiveness of these questions together struck me then, and the questions became a core part of the course as well.

Separating good and constructive feedback is helpful not only for the audience—the givers of feedback— but also the receiver of the feedback. Additionally, asking what didn’t go well or what didn’t you like is not always the most constructive mode for the presenter or facilitator. Likewise, asking “what can I do better” can be so open-ended as to inspire no response at all. The giver of feedback may not know whether to start from ‘if you change every single thing about this presentation’ or ‘what’s low hanging fruit that can make this better’.

However, asking in a way that is relatable and quantifiable, i.e. improving just 10%, proved actionable for both sides. More students ‘popcorned’ responses to that question and they also seemed to feel more comfortable doing so after being able to compliment, applaud, and celebrate the strong points of the speaker, video, or session.

Go ahead and try it. One thing I noticed is that with Gen Z students growing up in a gamified world where they are rewarded for having an opinion by way of upvotes, downvotes, and vote-outs—they do have opinions on nearly everything. And our changing digital landscape has trained them to decide what they think quickly and to articulate the same with helpful clarity.

Just as we are being trained to engage in more human-centered design involving copious user feedback, so too are our future feedback givers being trained to give really good feedback.

Used in the right way, this can be the start of a great feedback loop.

We are our networks

Overall the experience of teaching a subject that is closely related to my personal and professional profile was incredible. It was also a reminder that we not only have networks, but we are a reflection of our networks.

Co-instructor Alessandra Clará, who taught parallel content to her own class of twenty-five students, and I—though meeting for the first time—found many significant overlaps. From social impact events that we unknowingly both attended to our broader beliefs about the role of “infrapreneurs,” i.e. those of us working to build the broader infrastructure for successful social entrepreneurship, we easily found common ground and enjoyed challenging each other based on our individual experiences and communities.

Similarly, the program was organized through the experienced and organized Summerfuel program team. Each Summerfuel team member exuded qualities of openness, ability to create an inclusive environment, and connecting with students in meaningful and fun ways. As someone who moved frequently up until high school, hadn’t I appreciated these “ambassadorial” qualities when I saw them in friends, leaders, and mentors?

We had the chance to reach out to our networks to finalize guest speakers. And, our networks responded. We were fortunate to have human centered designers, educators, social entrepreneurs, content producers, and venture capitalists including: Tiffany Yu, Shalini Sardana, Heather Arora, Brendan Barbato, Ryan Oliver, Regina Sanchez-Gonzalez, Ramil Ibrahim, Jordan Edelheit, Nitin Pachisia, and Alison Berman. They individually and collectively made the topic and space more real to students and asked insightful (and sometimes challenging) questions to help spur deeper thought and engagement.

Our networks are not exclusive of us. Indeed, we are part of them. And, our individual work often reflects some of the core challenges and strengths of the broader space.

What Next?

The morning after final pitches had been made and the judges’ top picks recognized, we were back in class. We started with the question “What Next”. After the highs, lows, and deep work that went into each team’s social enterprise, what could be next for them? I shared a few platforms, fellowship programs, and opportunities that could be relevant to their social enterprise ideas. These included D-Prize, Catapult, The DO School, +Acumen courses, and more.

The program has also been a good catalyst for reflecting on what is next for my work with Innov8social and Innovate Impact Media. There is a great deal that has been learned at the intersection of high school students and social enterprise. I look forward to exploring this nexus further through customized Impactathon® offerings. If you are a teacher or educator who wants to bring an immersive social enterprise experience to your school and students, I would love to connect.

One student wrote in the evaluation survey: “I have discovered so many things about myself that I didn’t know in terms of creativity and teamwork and I feel like this will really help me in future projects and challenges that I will face throughout life. I have been able to listen to amazing people and social entrepreneurs talk and now I [feel] more comfortable and confident when I hear the words “social enterprise”.

When teaching, we can never really know what lasting impact we have. Though, we sometimes can see a glimmer in the distance.

Last May, Innov8social hosted its first live event—IMPACTATHON—at the creative and collaborative Tech Shop in San Francisco. Today, I am thrilled to announce we are partnering with UCLA to host the first university Impactathon at UCLA Anderson on Friday April 21st 2017 as part of their Social Impact Week!


impactathon at ucla anderson


Register for IMPACTATHON at UCLA Anderson, Friday 4/21

Impactathon brings together the best of seminars and TED-style talks along with hands-on ideation and collaboration for a powerful experience focused on helping participants take social impact ideas and ventures to the next level.

At Impactathon at UCLA Anderson, participants will also learn how to effectively craft and share social enterprise stories from the famed Red Bull Amaphiko Storytelling Lab.

 impactathon at ucla anderson, interactive workshop for social entrepreneurs


Join this event to:

  • Engage and hear from other founders, aspiring founders, social intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs, thinkers and doers in the social impact space.
  • Listen to honest, candid experiences and perspectives from thought leaders and trailblazers; hear about their successes and challenges and how they continually pivot to puruse both profit and social impact.
  • Get a special guided tour of the UCLA Anderson Accelerator and learn about how to build your brand through a high-energy storytelling workshop by Red Bull Amaphiko.
  • Work in small groups to build an idea and ‘mini pitch’. Beyond the idea, you will have a chance to build relationships with motivated, talented individuals aligned with a shared goal of creating social impact that can create community beyond Impactathon.
  • Enjoy a fun networking lunch with peers.

 impactathon at ucla anderson, interactive workshop for social entrepreneurs


9:15 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. – Registration and breakfast

10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. – Introductions and Keynote Talks

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Storyteller Lab by Red Bull Amaphiko

12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. – Networking Lunch

1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. – Impactathon Workshop

4:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. – Pitches

4:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Judges debrief and awards

Meet the Speakers

Kaitlin Mogentale, Founder/CEO, Everytable & Groceryships*

Kaitlin Mogentale was a college senior when she watched a friend juice a carrot. She was appalled to see that as much as 75% of the vegetable was wasted, leaving behind vibrant heaps of carrot pulp. Calling up juiceries across Los Angeles, she found that most were sending their pulp to the landfill (as much as 3.5 pounds are wasted per pound of juice produced!). After that fateful moment, Kaitlin’s traditional career trajectory was turned upside down as she began to build Pulp Pantry, a social enterprise turning neglected resources such as juice pulp into value-added products.

Somya Munjal, Youthful SavingsSomya Munjal, Founder/CEO, Youthful Savings

Somya has one clear mission in life – economic empowerment. By working hard, understanding the economy and business, she believes all can be empowered and live a better life. She is a social entrepreneur with a passion for helping people through financial planning, education and impact-driven entrepreneurship. She is the founder of Youthful Savings, CPA for the People, LLP, Audacious Endeavors, LLC and the author of the forthcoming book Audacious Endeavors: How to Light Your Inner Fire and Change the World Through Socially Conscious Business.


Andrew Mcdowell, With Love Market and CafeAndrew McDowell, Founder/CEO, With Love Market & Cafe

Andrew McDowell is the Founder and CEO of With Love Market & Cafe. With Love ( is a community-centered business venture, seeking to address injustices and inequalities disproportionately affecting the minority community of South Los Angeles. As a for-profit business with a non-profit community development arm, With Love is working to create a sustainable, replicable model for healthy food access, employment and community empowerment in urban poor/under-resourced  communities. Andrew is a graduate of Occidental College, resident of South LA, and member of Church of the Redeemer, in South LA.




impactathon at ucla anderson, interactive workshop for social entrepreneurs

More About Social Impact Week at UCLA Anderson

Social Impact Week at UCLA Anderson, which kicks off this Friday, features events, talks, and workshops focused on social impact, impact investing, and designing for social impact.

Join us! You can register for Impactathon at UCLA Anderson here. General admission is $15, the event is free to UCLA students, and scholarships are available.

Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to #goanddo!


impactathon at ucla anderson, interactive workshop for social entrepreneurs

I went to SXSW this year. It pretty much rocked my world.

It was my first time to South by Southwest, the 10-day festival that has been bringing together a combination of music, film, startup, social impact, tech, and interactive media sessions since 1987. I was there to speak about social entrepreneurship, mentor, attend, connect, and meet unique, passion-drive people from around the globe and around Austin. Though there for just the first few days, SXSW — or “South by,” as it’s referred to by seasoned festival-goers and Austinites — proved to be an immersive experience not only embodying the culture of an incredible city but also cross-pollinating the quirky-creative-progressive vibe of Austin.

Here are a few lessons from SXSW I learned from my 2017 experience.

Lessons from SXSW


Stay Weird

If you go to Austin you will likely run into “Keep Austin Weird” stickers, logos, hashtags, etc. It’s a slogan, an anthem, and a call to action. (an interesting aside, it seems that the original creators of “” lost out on the trademark to the slogan…an interesting tale explained more here). The original intent behind the phrase was to “counter Austin’s descent into rampant commercialism and over-development” but over time it has evolved to become a badge of individuality, creativity, and community.

The lesson here is to not only identify the “other,” “counter,” “unique” aspects of our work or brand, but to find ways to lean into and celebrate it. For social entrepreneurs, building a business that prioritizes impact and a bottom line, can sometimes put us out of sync with traditional business and non-profit communities. But, it is that precise distinction that should be valued, championed, and developed.

Ultimately, what is weird about us and our work, is what makes us unique — and findable amid the noise of media. If we can find a niche of users, clients, investors to support our vision and work, we don’t need to ‘fit in’ but can be more easily seen and recognized by standing out.

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Experience over Handshakes

SXSW is an alternative universe where experiences are just around the corner, at an interactive lounge down the hall, or at the next happy hour. Some of the most meaningful conversations happened with folks I met after they reached out via the SXSW app or vice versa, at a session, or while shuttling to and from venues via local car-share app “Fasten”.

Where many events like this are built around the customary exchange of business details, at SXSW there is a premium on having a meaningful experience together. The length of the event — 10 days — admittedly facilitates organic and planned experiences.

In 2 days, I met with an impact investor, connected with CEO of a DC-based nonprofit social enterprise; engaged a new friend and documentarian to informally cover my talk; reconnected with friends from college, a recent fellowship, past podcast episodes; had one of the most ‘real’ conversations with a fellow female social enterprise founder about what it takes to actually scale and grow an impact-driven business…and even sighted a few celebrities to boot. I connected with teachers who purchased my book in hopes it could help their entrepreneurial high school students further their work and had some incredible discussions with mission-aligned leaders in New York and Washington D.C. about hosting Impactathon sessions in those cities.

These experiences, a small snapshot of what is possible in a multi-day event, provided fodder for reflection, inspiration, and clarity. With each of these connections, we had a moment in a place where people think bigger and make the impossible yesterday’s news.

It made me re-think how I evaluate investing in experience over product. The things we have may come and go, but the experiences leave impressions, raise questions, build relationships, and can inspire and guide our work far longer.

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It’s Always the People

One of the memories that stays close from my time at Apple was the credo each retail specialist carried with them which declared that, for Apple, “our soul is our people.” This simple phrase definitively conferred importance and value to individuals, relationships not distinct from the company brand, but central to it. I often echo this sentiment when considering my work and team.

As social enterprises grapple with how to attract and retain excellent talent, they can also look to that simple sentiment when considering how to cultivate a culture of respect and resilience.

Fast forward to SXSW which takes place in a city that has been consistently recognized as “friendly”. Among the designations Austin has amassed are: top five friendliest city, one of the most dog-friendly cities, LGBT-friendly city, and bicycle-friendly city too. The friendliness I encountered with people from Austin was consistent with the rankings, and I think it spilled over to the interactions between conference and festival goers too. It is the culture behind that kind of warmth and welcoming that has helped put SXSW on the map as a ‘go-to’ event for innovators, collaborators, thinkers, and doers.

It has also made me think about how a more open attitude can facilitate our next level of growth. How connection, collaboration, and respect can help relationships transcend given roles to become part of a lasting connection, that we re-visit, contribute to, and grow from over time.

I look forward to continue growing from the lessons from SXSW, and of course, to staying weird :)

Austin, #howdy 🤠 . . #sxsw2017 #sxsw #austin #socent #impact #downtown #goanddo

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Life is interesting. Since the time I applied to speak at SXSW early last summer, a number of things have shifted in monumental ways. The global climate has been inching from collaborative to isolationist in crucial ways. The US administration has transitioned, leading to sweeping changes in policy and focus.

SXSW in a time of change

So when I received news that a version of my talk on social entrepreneurship, based on my experience with the book, website, podcast, and programming was accepted as a solo talk at SXSW 2017 I was thrilled, and also contemplative.

What perspective could I offer in this unique time of transition and uncertainty? How could I adapt the social entrepreneurship knowledge I have been cultivating for the past half-decade into something actionable, accessible, and relevant in today’s local, domestic, and global landscape—which has shifted so much in a short six months.

These thoughts have been marinating. They have also led to uncovering a belief that this is perhaps the most important and pivotal moment for social entrepreneurship. This space, now well into its young adulthood, is primed to prove itself; beyond theory and design, as a force for impact, business, job creation, collaboration, and mission-aligned change.

I hope to address some of the shifts, challenges, openings, and unique opportunities I see for social entrepreneurship in today’s landscape in my talk this Friday at SXSW. I will be there just a few days and my mission is to share, learn from, and connect with individuals or organizations with a ‘problemsolver mindset’ that are aligned with a similar mission and vision. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Impactathon 2016


Join me at SXSW

Help spread the word

If this makes sense with your work and network, please feel free to share this session over social media.

Join @neetalparekh of @Innov8social at #SXSW for a talk on “#Socent for #Founders: 5 Things” on 3/10 at 11am.

Neetal Parekh is the founder of Innov8social, author 51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship, and host of The Impact Podcast by Innov8social. On Twitter and social media: @innov8social

In this episode of the Impact Podcast, Innov8social founder shares her experience at the 2016 Net Impact conference in Philadelphia. Net Impact is deeply rooted in its business school beginnings and it supports individuals to create impact. Net Impact catalyses this through their annual conference, which moves across cities every year.In this podcast you will get to hear 8 little clips from exhibitors, speakers, attendees, that covers two days of this conference.

Listen to the Episode


Net Impact 2016 Conference in Philadelphia : Making History

Net Impact is a global community of students and professionals who aspire to be effective drivers of social and environmental change. Their programs are delivered from headquarters, as well as globally through student and professional chapters.

The Net Impact Conference is a premier gathering of students and professionals who are committed to making a lasting social and environmental impact now and throughout their careers; this year the 24th Net Impact Conference happens in Philadelphia, a city where history is made.

Meet Dara Kosberg of The Dinner Party and George Srour of Building Tomorrow

Neetal moderated a session called “Confessions of a Social Entrepreneur”. Neetal met Dara one of the speakers, who focussed on the topic of vulnerability in taking big leaps. Vulnerability is an important factor in a social enterprise whether it is for an individual or an enterprise. Dara is driving a social enterprise called the “The Dinner Party”,  which is a community of 20’s or 30’s who had experienced significant losses in their social enterprises. They all meet for dinner and share their experiences, on what went wrong and how it continues to impact them both positively and negatively. Neetal also met George from “Building Tomorrow”. He spoke about the importance of passion in social enterprise. Building Tomorrow helps communities in underdeveloped areas by building schools for them.

Meet Camille Simm, London Lee, and Jivika Rajani

Neetal spoke with some of the volunteers at the conference and they shared their experiences at the conference. Camille is from McGill university and learnt a lot of tips on how to figure out passion to do something impactful. Neetal also meet with London Lee from UC Berkeley, and she learnt about the challenges and hardships faced by entrepreneurs. She could use all those learnings in her future. Neetal then meets Jivika, who is from India and she goes to the Claremont College. She learnt from various speakers, that the number of awards you win is inversely proportional to the money you make.

Meet Chahat Sharma, Net Impact Conference Director at Penn State University

Neetal met with Chahat Sharma during lunch, and spoke about her experience in social impact space. She is from Penn State, and is involved in the Net Impact chapter. Chahat Sharma felt that going to a business school is all about making money, but all that changed after she listened to Michael Hastings, at one of the conferences. It really changed her perspective about social enterprise, she understood how recruiters are looking for people with a heart for social impact. She is also interested in Women Empowerment, and she feels both of these go hand in hand. She is director of the conference at Penn state. You can learn more about conference by visiting

Meet Maren Keeley, Co-Founder of Conscious Company Magazine

Neetal met with Maren Keeley at the exhibitor’s booth, the co-founder of Conscious Company Magazine. They focus on purpose driven sustainable business. They have managed to create four issues of the magazine in 2015 and six in 2016. But in 2017, they are transforming themselves into a full fledged media company. Maren has undergraduate experience in philosophy and sculpture, and was a chef for 15 years. Megan and Maren has worked hard on the business model, and they are excited to make a contribution in this space. She is very that happy that people are ready to sacrifice things, for job with purpose.

Meet Kevin Bryan, Director of Recruitment at UnCommon Schools

Neetal met with Kevin, who is the Director of Recruitment at the UnCommon Schools. Kevin has a life long passion of increasing opportunities for good education. He sees his work as critical, at the UnCommon Schools in finding teachers who catalyzes lasting change. UnCommon Schools offer both instructional and operations fellowships for candidates looking to explore a variety of leadership opportunities. Both fellowships are paid, full-time positions within Uncommon Schools and include school startup preparation, school visits, and ongoing mentorship. You can learn more at

Meet Julia Delafield and Hannah Benson from University for Peace

Neetal meets Julia at the conference, Julia is the Director for Education at the University for Peace. The university was created in 1980 by the United Nations, to focus on making a more peaceful world at a global level. They have master level and doctorate level programs that focuses on peace from different lenses. The united nations have a part, in the university board of directors and they are a part of a long term commitment. You can connect with them at

Meet Abe Taleb, CEO of ReWork and David M. Chee, Aspiring Social Impact Educator

Neetal meets with Abe at the reception, who is the CEO and co-founder of ReWork. ReWork helps to place talent in the social enterprise sector. They work with social enterprises and non-profits and help them hire top talent. David is an aspiring social impact educator looking for a placement ins the social sector. These type of conferences help people to connect with each other, and David was in fact able to get an offer from a startup at the conference.

Meet Ariella Gastel, VP of Marketing of Greyston Bakery

Neetal met with Ariella Gastel during a concluding session at the conference. Ariella has been working with food industry for more than 25 years. Greyston is very impressed with the fact that Greyston is certified B-corp and they are able to do business with like minded folks. They have a kinship with other B-corps and get inspired by their work, like Ben and Jerry’s. Greyston do supply Ben & Jerry with their brownies. They also had an employee swap and learnt a lot from each other. They also partner with Whole Foods and Delta Airlines.

In this episode of the Impact Podcast,  Innov8social founder talks to us, live from the 2016 Tech Inclusion event. Neetal talks to a wide variety of attendees as well as organizers on various topics. The event had a great session about, about race and the unconscious bias that comes along with it.

Listen to the Episode

Sound bytes from Nancy and Barbara

Neetal meets Dr.Barbara Adams, who is an organizational psychologist, she specializes in the aspect of human behavioral change due to disruptive technologies. Barbara feels that it is a great privilege, to be a part of Tech Inclusion, and to meet the amazing people at the conference. Neetal then meets Nancy Garcia, community and diversity program manager for Elemental Technologies. She was invited to the event by TechTown from Portland Development Commission.

Barbara felt that the event is a change catalyst, which helps people to come together and find people who can bond over similarities. She found people at the event, who are compassionate and helpful to one another. Nancy came to conference to built a community of people, who are interested in learning and making a change. You can reach Nancy by twitter @msnancygarcia and also at Barbara can be reached at and, she always loves to hear from the audience.

Meet Elena from Startup Showcase

Meet Elena, who manages the startup showcase. She takes care of the  startup pitch inclusion for the conference. She has the task of setting up the evaluation panel, which filters the 10 finalists from hundreds of applications. The selected finalists, will get to present their startup pitch on both days of the conference. Once the conference is done, the winners will be announced. There is a set of criteria of put forth by Elena’s team, one of them is to have a product which promotes diversity  and inclusion. The startup should also have a demo to showcase, in addition to the fact it should have received less than 2 million in funding. To learn more about the finalists, and the startup ideas they pitched, please visit

Meet Mitchell Glauser

Meet Mitchell Glauser, who is a software engineer by profession. She is also the founder of Techtonica, a non profit which provides free tech training and placement, for low income women in San francisco. She started her career in software, through one such boot camp called hackbright. Ever since, she has been helping a lot of women in tech industry. She noticed recently, the coding bootcamps have tripled their rates. She wondered how struggling people can afford to join these camps ? So she researched and found that, providing tech skills can make people thrive. She did so with the help of companies, who were looking for diverse professionals. The companies sponsored boot camps to help people in need. In turn the companies, also got benefitted by having new people with diverse skillsets. She has completed a whole bunch of workshops and fundraisers.

Meet Hader Cohen

Hader Cohen is the founder of “pivot to bloom“,  she believes that a healthy business culture, is the heart of a successful product. She partners with tech companies, help them sort out gender issues using a holistic approach. Hader’s team organizes weekly communications about gender, culture, and also conduct monthly workshops. They bring in the theory and apply them practically using fun activities to solidify the learnings.

As part of the workshops, they also communicate with Managers, and sort out the gaps between leadership and workforce. A lot of companies find it hard, to accept that they have gender and culture issues, but it is deeply rooted in them. You can connect with Hader through her website “pivot to bloom” and by e-mail at She loves to volunteer at Tech inclusion and is always amazed to meet wonderful people at the conference. She feels that experiences should shape your career, rather than a rigid thought process.

Meet Arvind

Arvind is a database engineer working for salesforce. At Salesforce, employees get an opportunity to volunteer for 7 full days a year. They also get to choose to volunteer locally  or to travel abroad. Many of them do go to, places like Vietnam or Nicaragua for volunteering to experience a different world. The volunteering work at Salesforce, helps their employees feel that, they are a part of family which creates an impact.

Neetal noticed that conference captured, the cutting edge of space, by bringing in speakers and thought leaders. The conference was huge win, as all participants walked away with their network and thought process widened.The conference gave hope amidst all the negative things happening around the world.

In this episode of the Impact Podcast, Innov8social founder shares her experience live from an event called “StartingBloc unplugged”. This event is a reunion of the program that happened, in LA institute in early 2016. Neetal shares her experiences with the participants, who came from different part of the country.

Listen to the Episode






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Check out this episode!