Making Waves with CAUSE

With all the news lately about NIU CAUSE  and their upcoming Social Impact Summit, we took some time to interview Sophomore Rob Willer to figure out what all the fuss is about. 

What is CAUSE?

CAUSE stands for the Collegiate Association of Unreasonable Social Entrepreneurs.  The organization is a bit complex and for the sake of brevity I’ll provide this link to their about page rather than reciting all their motives, goals, and projects ( http://niucause.com/about-niu-cause).

How did you get involved?

Well there’s a few reasons.  My old CA (Zach Fiegel)  is the current president of Cause.  He had talked to me about the organization a few times before but one day in class I was talking to a few students who were in the honors program.  They mentioned the Cause meeting that night and they invited me to come.  I wanted to get involved in the actual business program and I thought this was my chance.  Zach pointed to me in a meeting and asked if I had any thoughts on a certain topic and I thought that was really cool.  Since then  I took over the role of Social Media, then treasurer and now I help wherever I can.

So what exactly is your title/duty in the organization?

Treasurer, pizza maker, pizza seller, promoter, social media…you name it.

We’ve been hearing a lot about the upcoming Social Impact Summit.  What’s that all about?

A lot of organizations have been putting on these conferences lately and they involve schools and businesses around their area. We thought, all of these other schools and groups are doing it, why can’t we?  We really want this to be an opportunity to students and businesses to network as well as promote awareness of a socially responsible mindset.

The website states that there are three goals in mind.  To Educate students and social practitioners about the applications of social entrepreneurship, to Inspire students and social practitioners to find ways to enlarge their societal and environmental impacts or just plain get started in the social space, and to facilitate Networking among students and social practitioners who are passionate about making a difference and changing the world.

Who is coming out?

We have two keynote speakers, Chuck Templeton and Megan Kashner along with numerous other companies and social incubators.  Over 130 students are coming out as well and you can still register at NIUCause.com and click Register Today!

1st annual implies that it will be a recurring event….any details on next year’s summit?

One step at a time…we’re putting the final touches on this year’s event but we hope that in this next month once we’re done reflecting and taking a breath, then maybe next year we can hope to get some new businesses/speakers and reach our goal of 250 participants.

Was orchestrating this event more work than you thought?

Definitely, but it’s been very rewarding!  It’s been nice to interact with a bunch of these companies online as social media guy for NIU Cause and get them all together in the same place.  I see lots of the companies that are participating tweeting about how excited they are.  It really feels great that there are  people out there that are as excited as we are.

What skills did you develop from this?  What lessons did you learn?

Teamwork: at first there was just four of us going out to find sponsors for the event.  Then we started dividing the responsibilities out to more members to get more people involved.  You get a little overwhelmed at the beginning because you see all these people so involved but it’s actually pretty easy to find a place, just ask questions during meetings and jump in where you can!

How can students get involved?

Come out to one of our weekly meetings on Tuesdays from  5-6 pm in BH 227.  There’s no application… just show up.  Students can also follow us on twitter @NIUCAUSE  or on facebook for more updates!  http://www.facebook.com/NIUCAUSE

Rob also writes for CLNS radio and the Northern Star.  Keep an eye out for his articles online and in print as the baseball season gets underway!

Life Lessons Abroad

The following is written by Mike Cahill, an Accounting Graduate Student at the NIU College of Business.

The Social Entrepreneurship Program at NIU is the perfect fit for any business student with aspirations to help make the world a better place. The mission of the Program is to show students how they can apply their business skillset to solve the world’s problems. Participating in the Social Entrepreneurship Program was one of the best choices I made as an Undergraduate in the College of Business because it really helped broaden my horizons. Learning from real world examples is what I like most about the classes in the Program

This past November I enrolled in MGMT 411 – Microfinance as part of the Social Entrepreneurship Program.  The class was very unique in that it was a small group (only about 10 students) and very discussion based. In class we were assigned case studies to develop our knowledge of the topic, and at the end of the semester we participated in a 4 day microfinance study abroad trip to Punta Mita, Mexico.

The trip to Mexico, led by NIU College of Business Instructor Dennis Barsema, was a tremendous experience. As a class, we met over a dozen micro entrepreneurs who were clients of a local Microfinance Institution (MFI) in Punta Mita. An MFI provides loans and other financial services (loans) to the poor, or people who would not otherwise have any access to such services. The loans enable micro entrepreneurs to start businesses in their villages, and the earnings from these businesses allow the entrepreneur to earn a sustainable wage. The experiences interacting with the MFI clients allowed us (the class) to see first-hand the powerful impact that access to capital can have on improving the lives of the poor.

Overall, the trip really brought the class to life. It was inspirational to hear the unique stories of each of the micro entrepreneurs. Every so often I stop to think about the micro entrepreneurs that I met, and about all of the hardships that they face on an everyday basis. It is really humbling and makes me thankful for all of the opportunities I am blessed with as an American. In the future, I hope to use what I have learned in my Social Entrepreneurship classes to help make the world a better place.