Looking Back, Looking Forward | Net Impact

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Liz with University of Michigan chapter members in 2015
Liz with University of Michigan chapter members in 2015

A message from Net Impact’s departing CEO, Liz Maw

When I joined Net Impact as CEO in October 2004, George W. Bush was about to win his second term as President. Lord of the Rings had won Best Picture from the Academy.  And Tom Brady had recently led his team to a Super Bowl victory. Some things never change!

At that time, Net Impact had just a couple of staff members, and its 90 chapters existed primarily at MBA programs. As a former chapter leader, I was full of optimism about Net Impact’s potential and thrilled to have the opportunity to further inspire and equip our community to change the world.

Fast forward 14 plus years to today.  I look back and am so amazed at what the Net Impact community has accomplished, with 400+ chapters and tens of thousands of members globally.  The impressive current and former Net Impact staff; our dedicated board and advisors; our generous funders and supporters; our outstanding chapter leaders; and all of our community members individually make an immeasurable impact, and collectively transformed both Net Impact and the world.  At the highest level, Net Impacters have:

  • Dramatically increased the social & environmental offerings at their universities. Our student chapters, whether at MBA programs, undergraduate programs, or graduate programs in diverse fields like engineering or policy, demanded new courses, extracurriculars, and career services in a way that fundamentally changed academic programs all over the globe.
  • Moved corporate sustainability from fringe to mainstream in companies large and small.  Today, companies recognize the strategic importance of sustainability for their growth and success, and Net Impact members have helped lead the way through their advocacy, pragmatic idealism, and demonstrated success.
  • Catalyzed tens of thousands of purpose-driven professionals to launch new ventures, lead social sector organizations, and drive transformational partnerships.  Our programs, chapters, and events inspire and equip an army of talented changemakers who have taken the social impact field by storm.
  • Looking inside our community, we have changed Net Impact from a small and more homogenous network to a more diverse, interdisciplinary, and inclusive community. We have focused on welcoming new kinds of chapters to our community, starting with associates and bachelor degrees and including a range of graduate programs like engineering and design. We also launched new professional and corporate chapters in diverse locations, everywhere from small towns in Africa to the conference rooms of Fortune 500 companies. 

Looking forward, what is next for our organization and community? Net Impact’s current strategy will focus on keeping our alumni more engaged; improving our programs and leadership experiences to better develop our members’ leadership skills, and building a more diverse and connected chapter network. We will hold a world-class conference in Detroit in October 2019, and we will develop innovative new programs for our chapters and partners. 

And most importantly, as we have done since we were first founded by a small group of students and advisors back in 1993, we will continue to support local communities of changemakers with big ideas, big talents, and big hearts.  As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” 

Net Impact community–you’re changing the world every day, and I am inspired and humbled by your extraordinary accomplishments. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.

Liz Maw served as a Net Impact chapter leader between 1999 and 2003, and as Net Impact CEO from 2004 to early 2019.