by Joanna Blaz
As UNA-SNY Young Professionals took their seats in Colors Restaurant on Thursday night, one simple item tied the room together: a chalkboard with a Cesar Chavez quote scribbled in blue and pink.
“We don’t need perfect political systems; we need perfect participation.”
The reasons for participation in UNA’s “At The Intersection of Business and Development” panel and networking event were as diverse as the audience itself, which included international entrepreneurs, college students and a sustainability event planner.
Moderator Osman Khan started the discussion by asking the crowd which of them worked in Corporate Social Responsibility. A handful stood up. He then delved right into the discussion with the panelists, with questions on how we could help fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals.
The panelists included Andrea Bertels, CSR Manager from Nielsen, Dr. Jo-Ann Rolle, Dean of Medgar Evers College and Alexandra Tarazi, Relationship and Local Network Manager from the UN Global Compact.
Many of the panelists had their own cheerleaders in the audience.
“That’s my dean!” Jezel Best, one of Rolle’s students, proudly exclaimed when asked why she attended.
Best recently finished the Entrepreneurship & Experiential Lab at Medgar, where she developed a business that would give non-violent youth offenders opportunities to complete apprenticeships in skills such as plumbing, to give them a fair shot at finding employment.
Another Medgar student talked about her experience studying abroad in Kenya and the Dominican Republic.
As the crowd of about 40 mingled over drinks and mushroom appetizers, some built connections across industries. Christine Newman, Senior Communications Manager from MicroEdge talked about how her company is finding ways to measure progress on SDGs. The software company is also developing a way for companies to track CSR efforts all at once.
The SDG & CSR discussion even continued to Twitter, where the hashtag #CSRmeetsSDGs revealed differing ideas on how the event could help SDGs, including contributing to the Goal 1: “End Poverty in all its forms everywhere.”
Whether their “perfect participation” meant sharing their business plans or asking the panelists a question, all audience members would agree with Khan’s last discussion point: looking forward to a sustainable future.