Conscious Capitalism Conference

By: Birdie Reznicek Issue: Innovation, Growth, Job Creation Section: Collaboration Close-Up

Unleashing the Power of Passion and Purpose

Conscious Capitalism Conference When you are trailblazing your own path, it is scary, and inspiration can be incredibly valuable. – Blake Jones, President & CEO of Namaste Solar

There is a rare but growing breed of business students who look past the well-trod roads to accounting firms and investment banks, seeking instead a path that creatively merges their business skills with service to the world beyond themselves. It’s not easy to be a business student on a non-traditional career path; you still bear the burden of student loans, but without the easy roadmaps of on-campus recruiting or corporate ladders.

In early March 2011, the Second Annual Conscious Capitalism Conference brought together these talented business students with innovative entrepreneurs and executives who shared from their own experiences on the “road less traveled.” This year's conference, developed and hosted by the Center for Education on Social Responsibility (CESR) at the Leeds School of Business, was a collaboration between the University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado State University, and ICOSA.

According to Dr. Donna Sockell, Director of CESR, the goal of the conference was to inspire and challenge business students from across the region to think about applying their business skills and choosing their careers precisely because they directly advance the social good. “The speakers we bring in have built amazing businesses that demonstrate they care about things that are much greater than themselves.”

This year's conference, aptly titled Unleashing the Power of Passion and Purpose, opened with Don Shaffer, the President and CEO of RSF Social Finance - a unique hybrid of a bank and a foundation that focuses on social impact investing. Don challenged students to bring their personal values into the world of finance. “Students here are obviously very switched on to entrepreneurship and social business, and really are striving to figure out how they can bring value into business. It’s been a real treat for me to see the kind of light bulbs going on for students.”

Heidi Ganahl reinforced the importance of building a business around one’s passion as she shared her personal journey to becoming the Founder and President of Camp Bow Wow. Ganahl emphasized the great economic, social and personal rewards that can be enjoyed by following a dream of providing a better life for others. Blake Jones, the President and CEO of Namaste Solar observed the power of inspiration. “A conference such as this broadens the horizons of what is possible. I wish I had been exposed to some of the ideas presented at this conference when I was a student. When you are trailblazing your own path, it is scary, and inspiration can be incredibly valuable. A conference such as this can provide that very important inspiration to have the courage to do what you want to do.” Students saw that it takes courage not just to be a social entrepreneur, but to be an “intrapreneur” as well. Luella Chavez-D’Angelo, president of the Western Union Foundation, engaged students in a lively discussion about creating social change from within an organization. The Conscious Capitalism Conference was a prime opportunity for students and faculty gathered from over five universities to engage each other in a real-world problem solving exercise. Scott Hitt, COO of The Paradigm Project, presented key questions his organization wrestles with in the process of developing markets and delivery systems for carbon-offset-producing products in developing countries. Student groups put their heads together and presented their own thoughts and possible solutions. As Luella Chavez D’Angelo noted, “This is an exciting thing to see in a diverse population – a contagious shared value of social responsibility.”

The Center for Education on Social Responsibility will host the third annual Conscious Capitalism Conference on the CU Boulder campus on March 7, 2012.

Birdie Reznicek is the managing director of CESR. CESR’s mission is to develop socially conscious, values-driven business leaders of tomorrow at the Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado at Boulder. For more information about CESR, go to