Skip to main content
Students at a case competition
Erin Manning (left) with co-organizers of the Net Impact Case Competition in October

What Social Impact Means at Yale SOM

Erin Manning ’24, a club leader for Yale SOM’s chapter of Net Impact, reflects on the role of social impact in the life of the school and in her own MBA education. 

At SOM, social impact has many different definitions and shows up in our community in a range of ways. For some people, social impact is their chosen career field and they’re working to advance social change and support equity and inclusion activities though work in the social sector. For others, social impact manifests more as a mindset or an approach they take in more traditional businesses and industries. Overall, I think, as a community, social impact means a desire to think about the impact and influence that the various decisions and work we all engage in is having on other people, society, and the planet. And how we can adjust our practices to improve the lives and outcomes of those in our various communities. 

The school’s mission is educating leaders for business and society. We aim to drive the conversation about what it means to be a socially minded leader across a variety of sectors. 

I came to SOM to gain the technical knowledge and skills needed to drive impact within the social sector. Beyond coursework that fills knowledge gaps I feel I have, engaging with the social impact space at SOM is important to me because it serves as a reminder of the change and impact I’m aiming to make in the communities I’m a part of. Within a business school environment, I don’t always have a chance to directly engage with this space curricularly, so aligning my extracurricular activities to this work serves as a good grounding and allows me to learn more about topics I’m passionate about, while also thinking about how my skills and interests intersect with other sectors.

I also think there is a lot that more traditional businesses can learn from the social and nonprofit sectors and believe that impact can take many different forms across sectors. Engaging with social impact through courses and extracurricular activities has allowed me to test my hypotheses and solidify my values when it comes to the type of impact I want to be having throughout my life. 

There is a lot of inherent power and influence that comes from having an MBA. Engaging in this space as a student is important because it helps provides us with the tools and language to wield this power responsibly and in a way that improves the companies, institutions, and broader world we find ourselves in. Today, there is a lot of overlap between the business, social, and government sectors and understanding how these spaces are connected is imperative to being a strong manager and organizational leader. I spend a lot of my time at SOM working with classmates and faculty to make the social sector accessible for all students and show students from all backgrounds how they can be making a positive social impact in their organizations, no matter what type of organization they are working for.