Photo Illustration: Getty Images

Rutgers summit will focus on health equity, climate justice, and shared prosperity

The Rutgers Institute for Corporate Social Innovation will bring together a range of stakeholders to learn from one another and drive collaboration on the three major social issues during a two-day virtual Inclusive Impact Summit.

While heat waves, floods, and droughts continue to get worse and public officials try to determine how to ensure climate justice, shared prosperity and health equity across the globe, the Rutgers Institute for Social Corporation Innovation thinks businesses and future business leaders can play a major role in addressing these critical social issues.

Noa Gafni, executive director of the institute, will take part in a two-day virtual summit on March 30-31 that will feature some major business influencers, including Joe Kenner of Greyston Bakery, which creates the brownies for Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, and Marla Blow of the Skoll Foundation, which provides grants and investments to socially-conscious entrepreneurs.

Noa Gafni talks about Inclusive Innovation Summit
Noa Gafni

Gafni talks about the upcoming summit, new research in the field and what businesses can do to share ideas and foster collaboration.

Q: What is the goal of the summit?

A: “The purpose of the summit is to really focus on how we can drive inclusive impact, which means how do we bring together the people who are normally left out of these conversations to drive meaningful change. We’re doing that by looking at three themes, climate justice, social determinants of health and shared prosperity. Because we are the Institute for Corporate Social Innovation, we look at all of the ways companies can have a positive impact on society and because we’re based at Rutgers in Newark, one of the most diverse campuses in the country, we look at the intersection of corporate social innovation and diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Q: How can an issue like shared prosperity be improved through Corporate Social Innovation?

A: “Shared prosperity is really about the future of work – a piece we’ve been looking at for over two years. When we think about the future of work and the ideas of automation or even the post-COVID recovery, we’re leaving behind people without a college education. We know that even though the economy has recovered for the most part, low-income workers are still very far behind. We also know many women left the workforce and aren’t coming back, so when we think about shared prosperity, it’s about, as we move forward and the economy and the stock market do well, we still have a long way to go to make sure everyone feels that prosperity.”

Q: Give us a sense of the speakers the institute has lined up for the summit?

A: Joe Kenner is the owner of the Greyston Bakery, which creates the brownies for Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. They’re really successful as an enterprise, but what makes them unique is that anybody can come through their door, whether they’ve been previously incarcerated or homeless. They’ll take anybody who is looking for a job and train them. The Greyston Bakery is an open hiring organization, and they have a completely blind hiring process. They also offer social support and wrap around these services to ensure that their employees thrive. Their retention rate is much higher as a result. Marla Blow, the chief operating officer of the Skoll Foundation, is another speaker. They do a lot of work in this space, whether it’s around climate justice or health equity outcomes. They have a big prize that they give out every year to social entrepreneurs who are doing great work in their communities.

Q: There’s a principle of broad participation that the institute talks about, how will the summit help to foster broad participation?

A: We have one day focused on research and another day focused on practice. We see that there’s a big disconnect. There’s a lot happening in the field that isn’t being broached by research and vice versa, so we see this as an opportunity to connect these two worlds. More importantly, these are speakers who are on this global circuit, and they speak to each other all the time, but they don’t really speak to stakeholders like our students. They’re very excited by that possibility and inspiring young people at Rutgers who come from all sorts of backgrounds and sharing how they personally can make an impact on these issues not just through volunteer work but through their careers as well. One of the things we stress at RICSI is that students don’t have to quit their job and move to India to start a non-profit to make an impact. They can really do it in a way that is within their means and still enables them to pay back student loans and do other things that they have on their minds. They don’t have to intern for free at the UN for six months, they can go to work at Johnson & Johnson and make a huge impact. There are so many interesting things happening in our backyard and globally that they can get involved with on these issues.  

Press: For all media inquiries see our Media Kit