Over Memorial Day weekend I attended the five day StartingBloc Institute in Social Innovation at Babson College in Boston. The other future fellows-around 100 in total-were passionate, diverse, and genuine.
The main focus was on relationship-building and creating what has become a tight-knit community of young leaders who want to make the world a better place through social enterprise, entrepreneurship, and intrapreneurship. Never before have I found a community where everyone was so open about their goals and fears, and where enthusiastic support for individual goals and opinions came so naturally.
The relationship-building activities were supplemented by a case competition for ReWork, lectures, and interactive skill-building sessions.
Here are some takeaways from some of the featured speakers:
Mitchell Wade, of StartingBloc’s Board, is the founder of Institute3, a think tank for practitioners obsessed with sustainable growth, one of the topics he spoke about.
- We are all passionate about change, changing the way things are done and the way issues are viewed. But the only change that matters is the change that happens when you are gone and the change that happens with other people.
- Institutions create space for community.
Ted Gonder, of MoneyThink and fellow University of Chicago alum and StartingBloc Fellow, gave an invigorating final session on “smashing fear.”
- You have to realize the assumptions going into any situation, and detach emotions from expectations.
- If I’m not at least a little scared to do something, it’s probably not worth my time.
- There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that others will feel comfortable around you.
- Fear is forget everything and run, or face everything and rejoice.
- Release the FOMO (fear of missing out) because you’ll never know what you’re missing out on. So enjoy what you have now.
Cheryl Heller, a designer and brand strategist, ran an interactive session on collaboration and designing for change.
- Communication can be designed to get the results that you want.
- What’s more important than your idea? Relationships.
Cheryl Kiser of Babson, Anne Kelly of Ceres, and Michael Levett of Citizens Democracy Corps, led a discussion on CSR.
- When do you change systems and when do you work within a system to affect change?
- You don’t just want to work for a company that has social impact. You want to work for a company with POSITIVE social impact.
- Companies should be pre-competitive, and be proactive about the impact they have in communities.
- You can’t have corporate social responsibility without individual social responsibility.
Here are some of my main takeaways from the StartingBloc experience:
- I’ve been fortunate to be a part of several communities of aspiring leaders, most notably Junior Statesmen of America and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy. StartingBloc, out of any community, understands true relationship-building. It began with a transformative session with Scott Sherman, and continues with an entire community of fellows worldwide that will support any other StartingBloc fellow, whether or not they have met. StartingBloc has also created incredible brand loyalty.
- There are a lot of young people who don’t care about making money or climbing the corporate ladder, but truly care about using their skills to help other people and make the world a more sustainable and better place. If they do want to make money or work for a corporation, they want to do it through social enterprise, or working for a company with a positive social impact. But because many young people are not taking traditional career tracks, I wonder what that means for the skills-gap for when/if these same individuals do try to apply for more traditional jobs.
- While I am still skeptical of entrepreneurship for the sake of entrepreneurship, most of the budding entrepreneurs at StartingBloc were thoughtful with game-changing ideas. In addition, I think many fellows were motivated by the concepts of intrapreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking.