I recently had the pleasure of attending two sessions at the Mobilize.org Millennial Summit with ~100 other Millennials with do-gooder visions and pragmatic solutions. Some, like Daniel, Mike, and Lana, already are making a huge dent in leading our generation to make giving a habit with substantial impact, and others like Marc, who have done some neat stuff, are continuing to become scholars in service and leadership. Some, like Allison, Jose, Chris, and Cliff, have great twitter feeds for their passions that I now follow and learn from. Still others, like the Team Rubicon guys, fell into their disaster relief model and ran with it; bringing it to admirable scale in just under 3 years.
The first session that I attended featured four 20-somethings who all started a social enterprise or nonprofit talking about aspects of the experience. Team Rubicon, for instance, discussed integrity: what it means, some difficult situations they had experienced, and how to make sure that integrity is part of the business plan. Sarah, the cofounder of Knowledge as Power, spoke about everything that can go wrong and make you want to quit, but how to stick to a vision while pragmatically refining goals as necessary and tapping into all available resources. Each speaker was introduced by a member of the Mobilize.org team, and it really highlighted the deep relationship that they have with each participant that goes far beyond the grant that a team might receive.
There was a 25 minute break before the next session, so I went to Starbucks with several participants. I spoke with some about their involvement with mobilize.org, and they couldn’t say enough good things about the summits, both in terms of connections made and advice received. They keep coming back because” it would be a loss not to”. Business cards were flying, questions about “why do you do it?” were being sincerely posed across lines of geography and program area, and plans to connect after the summit were inked onto calendars.
The next session was a more intimate (~16 people) breakout to discuss social enterprise in the future. There was a lot of diversity of opinions and experience in the room, and it showed as folks discussed everything from the merits and pitfalls of Apple’s successful business model (which brushes off charity and perhaps too environmentally friendly production of materials) to how to best structure an innovative idea in a way that makes the risk marketable to funders. During the loose panel / conversation, people were also referencing early conference speakers very specifically, which to me showed a very comprehensive agenda that was resonant with participants. Not only was it a good conversation, but people certainly left with a refined thought process on solutions to social problems and their role(s) in doing so. They broadened their understanding of social entrepreneurship as each of an idea, a model, and a goal by integrating others’ thoughts and experiences. I enjoyed speaking with the StartingBloc, Nexus: Global Youth Summit, and One Percept Foundation folks after this about their role in the sector, and found a surprising level of awareness that they’re doing something big coupled with confidence to keep learning and improving.
I was in the middle of writing this blog post – still without the right word to describe the individuals in attendance – when I shamelessly watched The Holiday and Eli Wallach’s character explained gumption best: In the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. Leading ladies [or gentlemen!] have gumption. Everyone at this conference has gumption and will undoubtably create something positive and innovative to impact the world.