Keynote: Navigating Challenges in Community-Based Social Entrepreneurship


Kesha Cash, Founder & General Partner of IMPACT AMERICA FUND (keynote Speaker)

Dubbed a “Top Five Gamechanger” by Forbes and a “Power Investor” by Essence, Kesha Cash founded Impact America Fund (IAF) to harness market opportunities overlooked by traditional investors. In 2016, Stanford Graduate School of Business published a case study on IAF to teach students about the structure of an impact venture fund, and how to analyze the social and economic impact of high-growth technology investments.

Kesha’s personal mission is to transform the economic livelihoods of marginalized communities in America. A Columbia MBA and applied mathematics student from UC Berkeley, Kesha spent the first decade of her career as a mergers and acquisitions analyst at Merrill Lynch in NYC, an operational consultant to inner-city small businesses in Los Angeles, and an impact investments associate at Bridges Ventures in the UK. In 2010, Kesha co-founded a$5M initiative focused on investing in mission-driven entrepreneurs of color, Jalia Ventures, with serial impact investor, Josh Mailman. She also supported Josh with managing Serious Change, LP. Kesha took her vision to the next level by founding IAF.

Kesha grew up in economic hardship and is her family’s first college graduate. Her lived experience and abiding belief in human potential inspire her life’s work. Kesha tells Forbes her vision for the future: “We identify as one human race and deeply consider the impact of our actions on other human beings, the environment and future generations.”

Kesha shares her thought leadership and passion for investing in underserved communities as a national speaker, contributing writer for Women@Forbes, and lecturer for Frontier Market Scouts at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

Caroline Smith & Margaret Lee, co-founders and co-directors of collab (Moderators)

Margaret and Caroline are the Co-Founders and Co-Directors of Collab, a small business, non-profit, and for-profit support program serving the New Haven community.

Collab provides capital, mentorship, and other resources to entrepreneurs based in New Haven. Their theory of change is built on the fundamental belief that investing in local entrepreneurs will contribute to individual, community, local, statewide, and national wealth (including more jobs, talent retention, and impact). Through programming and events, Collab aims to address the small and large financial, psychological, and logistical barriers to entrepreneurship in New Haven.

Caroline and Margaret bring backgrounds in both startups and community organizing, including experiences with SeeClickFix, Yale Entrepreneurship Institute (now the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale), and New Haven Bike Month.

Panel: Current Challenges for Refugees and Immigrants within our Community


Chris George, Executive Director of Iris: Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services

For the past 12 years, Chris has been the Executive Director of IRIS - Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, the New Haven-based refugee resettlement agency that welcomed more than 1,000 refugees to Connecticut over the last three years.

Chris has spent most of his professional life living in, or working on, the Middle East. Before returning to Connecticut in 2004, he worked seven years in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Chris directed a legislative strengthening project with the Palestinian Parliament and later established an emergency assistance program for Palestinian nonprofits. From 1994 to 1996, Chris was Executive Director of Human Rights Watch – Middle East. Prior to that, he worked with Save the Children for nine years (mostly in the West Bank and Gaza) and three years with American Friends Service Committee (mostly in Lebanon).

Chris began his international career in 1977 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Muscat, Oman. Altogether, he spent close to 20 years living in the Middle East. Chris speaks Arabic, has a BA in History from the University of Pennsylvania, and is a graduate of Montclair High School in New Jersey.


Amelia Reese Masterson, Executive Director of cityseed

Amelia Reese Masterson is the Executive Director of CitySeed – a nonprofit organization that seeks to build an equitable, local food system in New Haven that supports economic development, community development, and sustainable agriculture. Under her leadership, CitySeed successfully initiated the Sanctuary Kitchen program in 2017 to both promote and celebrate the culinary traditions, cultures, and stories of refugees and immigrants, while providing opportunities for income generation and food entrepreneurships.

Amelia has spent her career working in community-based food security and nutrition programming, humanitarian response in refugee settings, and public health research. Amelia holds a Master of Public Health from Yale School of Public Health and conducted her thesis research in partnership with UNFPA on reproductive health and gender-based violence among Syrian refugee women in Lebanon. She has also worked with UNICEF Syria responding to the Iraqi refugee crisis, the American University in Beirut building women’s community kitchens in Palestinian refugee camps, and International Medical Corps supporting food security and nutrition programs worldwide.


Mushfiq Mobarak, Professor of economics at Yale school of management

Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, a native of Bangladesh, is a Professor of Economics at Yale University with concurrent appointments in the School of Management and in the Department of Economics.

He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at MIT, co-chair of its Urban Services Initiative and of its Environment & Energy Sector work. He is also the academic lead for the Bangladesh Research Program for the International Growth Centre (IGC) at LSE, and Scientific Advisor to Innovations for Poverty Action, Bangladesh.

Mobarak has several ongoing research projects in Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, India, Indonesia, Kenya and Malawi. He conducts field experiments exploring ways to induce people in developing countries to adopt technologies or behaviors that are likely to be welfare improving. He also examines the implications of scaling up development interventions that are proven effective in such trials.

Panel: Barriers to Quality, Affordability, and Access to Healthcare in the U.S.

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Mark Schlesinger, Professor of Health policy at Yale University School of Public Health

Dr. Schlesinger is Professor of Health Policy and a fellow of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University and past editor of the Journal of Health Policy, Politics and Law. Dr. Schlesinger’s research explores the determinants of public opinion about health and social policy, the influence of bounded rationality on medical consumers, the role of nonprofit organizations in American medicine. His recent research initiatives include (a) studying how the changing availability of information on clinicians’ practices alters patients’ choices among doctors, (b) assessing public perceptions of and responses to economic insecurity, (c) explaining the recent rapid expansion in the scope of newborn screening among American states, and (d) understanding why particular collective responses are seen as more or less legitimate for addressing the spread of obesity among Americans. He has consulted to a half dozen federal agencies, several dozen state and local governments, and more than a score of nonprofit organizations concerned with health and social policy. His favored sports include uncompetitive volleyball and unlighted table tennis.


Jason Abaluck, Professor of economics at yale school of management

Professor Abaluck's work lies at the intersection of public finance, behavioral economics, health economics and industrial organization. His research focuses on the detection of mistakes and the design of institutions when consumers or providers make mistakes in contexts such as health plan choice, dietary choice, or the provision of medical care.


Kate Cooney, Lecturer in Social Enterprise and Management at Yale School of Management

Kate Cooney's research uses institutional theory to study the intersection of business and social sectors. To understand how hybrid organizations are shaped by commercial and institutional isomorphic pressures, she has studied commercialization in the nonprofit sector, social enterprise, workforce development programs, and the emergence of new social business legal forms. Her studies on work integration social enterprise approaches to workforce development have appeared in the Nonprofit Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Voluntas, Social Enterprise Journal and the Journal of Poverty. She has also written broadly about market based approaches to poverty alleviation in the Social Service Review.  Other work contributes to efforts to develop the micro foundations of institutional theory. Examples include a study of policy implementation in human service organizations contracting to provide welfare-to-work services, published in Administration & Society, and her current research interest in the negotiation of competing institutional logics in social enterprise organizations. Projects underway include an analysis of the diffusion of new legal forms for social business, and a study examining the organizational factors associated with financial risk and financial health in social enterprise models in selected subsectors of the U.S. nonprofit sector.

Prior to joining the faculty at Yale SOM, Dr. Cooney was on the faculty at Boston University teaching courses on nonprofit management, urban poverty and economic development, and community and organizational analysis. She has served as a research consultant for Abt Associates, Inc. and for Boston-based nonprofit organizations, including most recently, conducting a SROI analysis for Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) in Boston.