A Driving Force for Social Good

Friday, March 2, 2018TOPICS: Innovation and EntrepreneurshipSpotlights

Amit Kakkad Professor of Operations Management
begin quoteWe need to cultivate students who will be socially responsible and environmentally conscious stakeholders across sectors, as customers, employees, politicians and citizens. This is the only way we will be able to solve the global challenges for good.

Amitkumar (Amit) Kakkad, Assistant Professor of Operations Management, and Director at the Center for Peace and Commerce is taking changemaking to the next level. A self-described “late-life academic”, Kakkad has been everything from a chemical engineer working with oil and gas refineries to a senior corporate executive working in a variety of industries including telecom, hospitality & entertainment, and capital markets. Picking up an MBA along the way, Kakkad was able to use his savvy business knowledge to help bring two startups to life while gaining experience as an entrepreneur. After helping these startups achieve exponential growth, Kakkad got his PhD in Management Science and Operations from the London Business School, and returned to academia at the USD School of Business and the Center for Peace and Commerce (CPC).

Since its founding in 2009, the CPC – a partnership between the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies and the School of Business – has been encouraging students to develop and exercise innovative approaches for making a positive impact on the 5 Ps– people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership, through social innovation and entrepreneurship. Through its Global Social Innovation Challenge, CPC resources, recognizes, and rewards students from around the world who attempt to come up with a potential solutions for a global, societal or environmental challenge. Over the years, CPC has awarded over $327,000 in seed funding to social innovations such as Dreams for Change, Soulr, Amniotic Wrap and My Story.

Driven himself, Kakkad sees great potential for the CPC, and an even greater potential for the impact it will have on students.

“At CPC, our goal is to engage with a wider group of students”, says Kakkad. “Particularly with those who haven’t thought much about social impact”.

The challenge is trying to explain why doing good and doing well at the same time is feasible and that there are multiple additional ways to create positive social impact in addition to starting another charity.

“What people sometimes don’t understand about solving social and environmental problems” says Kakkad, “is that we need to create social change from the inside out across all three sectors – public, private, and social. We need to cultivate students who will be socially responsible and environmentally conscious stakeholders across sectors, as customers, employees, politicians and citizens. This is the only way we will be able to solve the global challenges for good, preventing them from becoming challenges ever again.”

Kakkad explains that students who participate in the CPC’s initiatives bring the ethics, social justice and sustainability concepts they’ve learned in the classroom, into their personal and professional worlds once they graduate. By doing this, they are able to change corporations to be more conscious from the inside out. Over time, the intention is that as more of our socially minded students graduate into the world, society will have a default expectation of socially responsible and environmentally sustainable behaviors in everyday circumstances.

As a professor in the School of Business, Kakkad makes an effort to bring students and corporations together to create social impact. He actively encourages his students to acquire the functional skills necessary to do well personally, and at the same time, develop their ability to think beyond themselves that is necessary to do good in the world.

“I believe that as a faculty member my job is not to teach, but to help guide the students on their learning journey”, says Kakkad. “I like to think about it like, ‘here is where we need to go, let’s walk together’. USD students are already highly intelligent and compassionate. All they need is a little nudge along with some guidance to raise the bar and always put their best foot forward. After all, the world needs many more capable and conscious leaders, and you cannot go wrong when you bet on good people doing good things!”