The hour may have been a wee early —8:30 a.m.— but the DJ at the Lincoln Center campus’s Pope Auditorium on Jan. 16 was pumping out decidedly up-tempo tunes.
And why not? The occasion was Make Impact NYC, a daylong conference dedicated to the premise, “Do Good in Your ‘Hood.”
Monika Mitchell, the founder of the online news and new media platform Good-B.com, joined Donna Rapaccioli, P.D., dean of the Gabelli School of Business, and Michael Pirson., Ph.D., associate professor of management systems at Gabelli, in welcoming attendees.
Pirson’s Center for Humanistic Management co-sponsored the conference, which featured panels on topics such as how entrepreneurs can leverage New York City’s position in arts, design, and media to affect social impact, how food can be a force for good, and how collaborative co-working communities amplify social impact.
Katie-Hunt Morr, senior manager of values and impact at Etsy.com, kicked things off with a keynote address that contrasted the isolation inherent in simply buying stuff, with the connections that are made when we actively engage with a merchant.
“I can’t help but think we must feel incredibly isolated from one another when we’re able to buy disposable goods made in essentially slave like labor, and most of the time, the implications of these purchases never crosses our minds,” she said.
“Over the last eight years, 90 people have been seriously injured, and seven have died during Black Friday sales. How isolated must we be if we’re willing to hurt or even kill each other to get a hold of a bargain?”
The chemical neurotransmitter dopamine is partly responsible, she said. Because it is associated with anticipation, not reward, it’s great for business because consumers don’t really care what they own–they only care about the act of purchasing.
Fortunately, the hormone oxytocin, which is associated with affection and comfort, can also be triggered in commerce through meaningful interactions. Morr cited as an example a couple on Etsy who sells custom-made cutting boards in the shapes of U.S. states. When one is ordered, they ask the buyer to pick a place on the map that’s special to them, and the spot is marked on the board.
“If we understand the story of the people behind what we consume, then we’re able to replace isolation with connection. When people feel rewarded by their purchase, they’ll come back to make more purchases,” she said.
The conference closed with the announcement of the winner of the “Battle of the Boro Pitch for Impact,” which pitted social entrepreneurship teams from all five boroughs of New York City against each other for $5,000 in cash and $20,000 in services. The winner was “I Am Not A Virgin,” a Manhattan-based ‘eco sexy’ denim line made with recycled plastic bottles.