2019 Net Impact Conference: What Did I Miss?

By: Alissa Hauser | November 9, 2019

Plant-based! Detroit! Showcase of local organizations. Paperless. People from all over. The boat.” -NI19 attendee in answer to the question, “What did you like most about NI19?”

Didn’t make it to the 2019 Net Impact Conference? We’ve got you covered. Here are five of our top highlights from NI19 in the words of our attendees:


Thanks to this conference, I’m now obsessed with oat milk!” -Coffee drinker at NI19

We are proud that environmental sustainability was a big focus this year. Our LEED-certified conference center team did all the heavy lifting to collect compost and recycling onsite and promote clean energy sources.  Our staff worked with vendors and catering to create as close to a zero-waste event as possible. We relied on technology instead of paper programs, and all of our name badges were recyclable. Our conference partner, TripZero, offset the carbon footprint of all participant travel.

Our biggest and perhaps most disruptive (in a good way) sustainability win this year was being a plant-based conference for the first time ever!  We worked with our Conference Caterer and our sponsor, Beyond Meat, to provide nutritious vegan meals on-site, and we introduced many attendees to the oat milk revolution. 


Come for the boat, stay for the sessions.” - NI Staff member and riverboat enthusiast

Yep, there was a boat at NI19. On Friday night, after a very full day of conference programming, over 1,000 people left it all on the dance floor of the Detroit Princess Riverboat. We had a live Motown Band, a multi-course meal, drinks, and some of the best informal networking of the entire conference. One attendee said, “The Friday reception on the boat was my favorite part of NI19.”  Another person said, “It got people mingling and letting their guard down.” Really, there’s little that can beat doing the Cha Cha Slide to a live Motown band with 1,000 of your new best friends.


I loved the coat lady story.”  -attendee who was in a packed-house, standing-room-only plenary session

This year’s keynotes showcased a diversity of perspectives — from Iqbal Quadir’s foundational work in the critical role that entrepreneurship plays in creating prosperity in low-income countries; to Shannon Watts’ impassioned talk about building the most powerful and impactful movement in America advocating for gun safety.  

One fan favorite this year was Veronika Scott’s inspiring story about designing a coat that ultimately led her to address the root causes of homelessness. See her 20-minute plenary session here. (We’ll upload more mainstage talks soon.)

We were also fortunate to work with top-notch corporate sponsors who brought their fascinating case studies, learning, and insights on topics like corporate social impact, ESGs, SDGs, community engagement and shareholder activism. NI19 attendees had many opportunities to meet and network with corporate partners one-on-one, as well as during breakout sessions, trainings, and networking salons.

Our theme of Widening the Lens opened people’s minds to new ideas— one attendee shared that NI19 was “an experience where I felt safe to express my opinions, even if they were different than everyone else's,” while another attendee said, “really diverse, inspiring sessions with great content and speakers.” And several people reflected on how our content and speakers brought so many perspectives together under one roof. “NI19 was like traveling to different parts of the world and across different states,” recalled one student.


I have never been to a conference that had such a wonderful nod to the host city. The energy, and how place-based it was, helped make the issues real rather than purely conceptual.”  -NI19 participant who appreciates “The D” as much as we do

Detroit is where it’s at! The city of Detroit welcomed NI19 with open arms. Thanks to our phenomenal host committee, and plentiful scholarship funds for Detroit students and social entrepreneurs, we were able to make NI19 accessible to anyone in Detroit who wanted to come!  We provided a platform for over 35 local speakers to showcase their work including on the main stage, in our Solutions Showcase event, and in over 20 breakout sessions. Detroiters showed us how inspiration, innovation, and hustle can be leveraged to address seemingly intractable challenges not just at the local level, but on the national and global stage. Want a real Detroit treat? Watch jessica Care moore’s one-of-a-kind standing-ovation welcome performance.


Being surrounded by people who were as passionate as me in this space really reenergized me and gave me hope for the future.” - A common sentiment shared by many

Fifteen hundred people came together this year armed with commitment, optimism, and endless curiosity about using our lives and our careers toward a more just and sustainable world for all. We welcomed friends from all over the globe, and in the words of one attendee, there was “a feeling of interdependence and familial love.”  

With such an enormous diversity of students, professionals, speakers, multinational companies, startup ventures, nonprofits, artists, activists, and even kindness ambassadors, the networking at NI19 was on point!

Participants enjoyed three career networking salons where they could convene in small groups with industry leaders in a wide range of fields. They took advantage of one-on-one career and personal brand coaching sessions, book signings, and speaker meet and greets.  One participant remarked, “It was easy to meet new people who care about the same issues I care about.” Another shared, “Net Impact is the most important conference for meeting like-minded people looking for sustainable solutions to the challenges our planet faces.

Is your FOMO setting in yet?  Save the date now for the 2020 Net Impact Conference in Baltimore, Maryland on October 22-24, 2020.  Sign up here to be alerted when registration opens, and get up to 50% off your ticket. 

If you have a workshop or panel to propose for NI20, we’re all ears. Tell us about it here.

Alissa Hauser

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