Making a Real Impact

PROVO, Utah – Mar 24, 2020 – For many students at BYU, the Ballard Center for Social Impact at BYU Marriott provides unique hands-on experiences in working to solve social and community-based issues. In order to broaden its reach and help BYU students who are new to social impact, the Ballard Center has launched a new student-led organization, the Impact Investing Association (IIA). 

The IIA was created by Nicholas Van Slooten, a senior studying economics, when he recognized a lack of opportunities for inexperienced students to get started in the social impact field. To fill this need, he partnered with fellow BYU student Ryan Woodfield, a senior studying exercise science, to gather other socially conscious students to form the association. 

Working under the Ballard Center to create the IIA, Van Slooten and Woodfield focused the IIA on the Ballard Center’s goal to facilitate interaction “between students, faculty, and practitioners” to find solutions for pressing societal issues. The association combines two focal points of the Ballard Center—social impact and impact investing—to give its members enriching experiences.  

Van Slooten, a native from Bentonville, Arkansas, says the IIA is built around three values: education, experience, and networking. “Students who are looking for these opportunities will find them at the IIA,” says Van Slooten. This past semester, the organization began by packing a room for its first association meeting, which featured information on social impact and a presentation by speaker, Jim Sorenson. Sorenson is the founder of Sorenson Impact at the University of Utah and a major influencer in the field of social impact. Though the IIA had no budget to spread the word, almost two hundred students turned out for the first event. 

The students who participated in the first IIA meeting represent the strong desire many BYU students have to make positive differences in their communities and future careers. “BYU students are future leaders in corporations, nonprofits, organization, and their families,” Woodfield says. Knowing this helps the IIA remain close to the Ballard Center’s goal to teach students about creating positive social change.  

From a broad perspective, social impact is the effect the actions of organizations, groups, and individuals have on their surrounding communities. In application, social impact refers to intentional actions to decrease poverty, increase responsible consumption in individuals’ daily lives, and achieve other humanitarian-focused goals. Impact investing addresses the same issues but with the addition of generating financial returns for organizations involved in making a positive social impact.  

By combining these two focuses at the forefront of the association’s efforts, the IIA is able to help students have a well-rounded first look into the impact investing sector of the social impact field. Todd Manwaring, the director of the Ballard Center, expressed excitement for the creation of the IIA. “Impact investing is one of the focus areas of the Ballard Center,” he says. “I’m excited that we have the new Impact Investing Association to support students who are interested in that field.” 

Future IIA meetings will include influential guest speakers and also provide hands-on training, certification, networking opportunities, case competitions, and visits with social impact startups. “I'm excited about the training program. These students are going to have one heck of a time,” Woodfield says.  

Many of the topics addressed in the training are modeled after the United Nations’ seventeen sustainable development goals for economic and environmental issues. By shaping the association’s training after the United Nations’ goals, the IIA hopes to help participating students prepare for the social impact field on a large scale. 

Over the semester, the Impact Investing Association aims to create projects for students to work on that tackle hard-to-handle issues such as engaging women in underrepresented fields, addressing the roots of poverty, and serving disadvantaged communities. For more information about how to become involved in the association, please visit the web page for the Impact Investing Association at the Ballard Center for Social Impact.

Nicholas Van Slooten addresses students at the first Impact Investing Association meeting. Photo courtesy of Nicholas Van Slooten
Nicholas Van Slooten addresses students at the first Impact Investing Association meeting. Photo courtesy of Nicholas Van Slooten.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Erin Kratzer