Passion for Justice

USF Gathers Tech Leaders and Students for Greater Good


Google, Yahoo, and Facebook were among the dozens of companies that joined USF’s first Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Conference March 4, which brought together more than 200 tech leaders, community members, and business students to discuss how technology can improve everything from health care to education.

“Each of the speakers and moderators we selected for the conference are specifically those who have decided to build their careers in the field of innovative social enterprises,” said Tom Juntunen MBA ’17, a member of the team that organized the daylong event, which included seven panels and 45 speakers. “This is a rapidly growing field for professionals who are looking for impactful careers in sustainability, focusing on the balance between financial, social, and environmental benefits for both nonprofit and profit-seeking firms.”

As part of the “Tech4Good” panel, leaders from Google, Yahoo, and Facebook spoke about their companies’ roles shaping the science of climate change, increasing diversity in the technology sector, expanding online learning, and drawing attention to movements such as Black Lives Matter and marriage equality.

Fighting Zika, Google’s philanthropic arm, gave $1 million to UNICEF to fight the Zika virus and assigned engineers to help analyze data about how the virus spreads, for example. Kevin McSpadden, Facebook’s marketing director, talked about the social media site’s “safety check” feature that allows people to connect with friends and family in case of an emergency. 

In another panel, sharing economy companies Lyft and Airbnb highlighted their role in supporting communities, one example being when Airbnb offered relief workers housing in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Paris. 

Panelists and moderators included USFers John Callaway, professor of environmental management; Mary Wardell-Ghirarduzzi, vice provost for diversity and community engagement; Marco Tavani, director of the Master of Nonprofit Administration program; Opinder Bawa, chief information officer; Elizabeth Davis, School of Management dean; and alumna Sabeen Ali SMOD ’09, founder and CEO of Angelhack. 

Student Organized

The event was organized by students in the Graduate Student Senate, Net Impact club, and the Entrepreneurship club, with the help of professor Jennifer Walske, director of the School of Management’s conscious leadership and social innovation program and a panel moderator.

The conference kicked off USF’s Tech4Good Startup Weekend, a three-day social innovation-themed competition that challenges students and local entrepreneurs to develop the best business proposals.

The first-place team, CrowdHero, proposed a method for companies to partner with local charities by using social media. 

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