Notes from 2010 Net Impact Conference

by Kevin Wooster, MBA/MS student at the Erb Institute, Class of 2013.

“Your job is not to create more NGOs.”
These are just a few of the words of wisdom Majora Carter shared with Net Impact members duringtheir conference’s closing keynote.
Majora went on to explain that those seeking to help communities in need too often rely on non-profitapproaches that require continuous contributions of capital. In lieu of this approach she argued weshould focus on creating for-profit project and business models which will sustain themselves and enrichthe community. It seems the old proverb still holds: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Later in her speech, Majora also made a terrific observation regarding social and environmental justice.As she pointed out, the more marginalized people are economically, the easier it is to marginalize otheraspects of their lives. Not coincidentally, Majora and others now focus on improving local communityeconomies, or as Majora puts it “Home(town) Security” as a first step towards achieving social andenvironmental justice.

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What is the biggest challenge we’re facing today in terms of water sustainability? Judging from theconsensus of opinions at Net Impact’s conference last week, the question has a two-part answer.
First, as Cameron Brooks of IBM said, “The number one issue with water is people don’t think it’s anissue.” Although, water sustainability has recently received more media attention, it seems manypeople are still unaware of the potential effects of water scarcity.
The second part of the challenge we’re facing revolves around how to assess our water impact andanalyze the risks we face as a result of water scarcity. Although, the water footprint methodology, whichquantifies impact as the volume of water consumed in a given timeframe per person, or per unit ofproduction, has gained in popularity over the past few years, it has its weaknesses. Principally, it tendsto gloss over variances in local and regional environmental conditions. This, in turn, leads to inaccurateassessments of water impact and its associated risk.
Unfortunately, at this time there does not seem to be a widely accepted standard to replace thefootprint metric. Thankfully though, judging from the discussions at the Net Impact conference, manyindividuals, organizations, and corporations are now focusing on how to improve our understanding ofwater impact and risk. The question in many peoples’ minds is how to answer the question Peter Schulteof Pacific Institute recently posed: “How should we understand and interface with this watershed worldwe live in?”

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One Response to Notes from 2010 Net Impact Conference

  1. I’d say that was the most important message i wanted to get across that day – thanks for listening and spreading this idea. Hope to run into you at the next one!
    m

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