While the Wharton Israel Conference focused on one small country, it pushed for a global effort to make the world a better place.
On Oct. 16, the sold-out inaugural Wharton Israel Conference featured speakers from near and far who shared how they profit by improving the world. An Oct. 15 discussion with professor Maurice Schweitzer on his latest book, Friend & Foe, preceded the conference. On Monday, a post-discussion will be held with Jeffrey Swartz, former president and CEO of Timberland.
The conference has been a goal of Bruce Brownstein, senior fellow at the Wharton SEI Center, for ten years. Tracy Steen and Tom Lincoln, co-founders of TNT Content & Design, agreed that the highlight of the event was an interview with Ronald Lauder, chairman and founder of RWL Water.
RWL Water was established with a vision to become the leading global water, wastewater and reuse solutions provider in the middle market.
“This technology has a lot of applications, and the technology that they’re making is a prime example of changing the world and making a profit,” Steen said. Lauder doesn’t even call it “waste” water – all water is valued in his mind.
“This event is not just for Jewish people. This conference is about people who want to make the world a better place,” Brownstein said.
Brownstein also cited Lauder as being an extremely important figure for Penn students — whether they know it or not. Although Lauder’s company is for-profit, its profits make it provide a maximum impact.
Speakers touched on main themes of food, water, energy, security, health care and communication over the course of a nearly seven-hour agenda. Michelle Guefen, a College junior, noted one of her favorite presentations by Sivan Ya’ari, founder and president of Innovation: Africa — a nonprofit that brings Israeli innovation to African villages to provide light, clean water, food and medical care.
“I think a lot of people are ignorant about the facts, and this [conference] would give people an opportunity to learn about Israel,” Guefen said. “There was a talk on every possible subject. I think that anyone would find it interesting,” she added.
The conference emphasized Israel’s brand, which Lincoln says is “undervalued in the larger world.” Lincoln added that “there is this culture in Israel of trying to do things for the community and not for yourself.” Students mingled with conference speakers, who were eager to give advice and share perspectives regarding why they decided to focus their work on Israel. “It was personal and also professional at the same time,” Guefen said.
“It was a lot of sincere, positive people,” Steen said. “You really feel that they have this true philanthropic drive,” Lincoln added.
The proposed date for next year’s conference is Nov. 11.
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