Business and Its Publics: An Overview

Guest Speaker presenting
Each spring, NYU Stern's entire freshmen class embarks on the Undergraduate College’s highly-esteemed Social Impact curriculum through Business and Its Publics (BIP). Combining lectures and small group discussion sections, BIP introduces freshmen to the interconnections between business, society, markets, politics, art, culture and life. The course features an array of distinguished speakers, providing students with different perspectives on the role of business in society.

This year, speakers include Dan Doctoroff, CEO and President of Bloomberg, L.P., Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes MediaMary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking, and on Monday March 10th, Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Acumen.

Introduced by Professor of Management and Organizations, and Chair of the Department of Management, Batia Wiesenfeld, Novogratz started her presentation with a background of her journey founding Acumen, with its focus on building the fundamental business models to fund entrepreneurs, and spur the partnerships with the public and private sectors to serve the public good. “One of the most interesting parts of Jacqueline Novogratz’s talk was about how they find risk-taking entrepreneurs. It was great to hear the process of locating the individuals and the ideas, which create the business models that can be replicated and brought to other parts of the world in need,” said BIP student Karl Gourgue, BS ‘17. “She explained the opportunities she had to build a team and solve problems in places where markets and governments had failed before.”

Novogratz also spoke on the topics of social innovation, social impact, business, sustainability and poverty. She asked Stern students to think more broadly about the role of business, markets and government when addressing market failures. Novogratz provided three case studies of the projects funded through Acumen that brought to light the larger issues that can fall to the private and public sectors. These real-world scenarios included businesses aimed at addressing deficiencies such as a lack of ambulances, lack of electricity, and lack of sanitation. “Jacqueline Novogratz discussed how the private sector can enhance social well-being in impoverished and corrupt societies and countries,” reflected BIP student Griffin Carlborg BS ’17.

Novogratz’s case studies provided students with examples of how Acumen’s work helped the poor, handled business in regions rife with corruption, built trust during times of insecurity or war, and tackled market failures. “It was inspiring to hear from Ms. Novogratz that social entrepreneurship and business can help to not only provide a much needed service, but also can change the mindset of the people you help, and restore trust in corrupt areas,” added Carlborg.

The presentation was followed by a Q&A session where students posed questions to Novogratz about how the organization, management and funding of these businesses worked. “In the world of business, it is easy to fathom looking out for your company’s interests; however, Novogratz proved over and over that it is possible to be more. I hope to also share these characteristics throughout my career in business,” said BIP student Matthew Wilson, BPE ‘17.