My second day in Boston focused on my main purpose of being in Boston in the first place: The Harvard Business and Kennedy Schools' Social Enterprise Conference. Listed by Forbes as one of the top 12 conferences of 2009, I only began to grasp it's importance while listening to so many inspiration social entrepreneurs* and students talking about the different strategies to bring real change to the millions of poor people throughout the world who really just need roadblocks removed and access to legitimate markets (among other things) in order to lift themselves out of poverty. In fact, this side of business is getting so much play that the New York Times wrote about it this very day!
While I've worked in the field of international development for a while, my frequent ventures into the private sector have given me a lot of respect for market-driven work. As the international development world is very insular and focused primarily on donor-funded solutions to social woes, I was very surprised and excited that my department manager even agreed for me to attend such a conference.
To say that I was thoroughly impressed with the caliber of the conference would be an understatement. I have never given much thought as to all the hoopla and prestige that surrounds all things Haaaarvard related, but man...these razor-sharp students were just bursting with great ideas and even more importantly, the failure-is-not-an-option attitude required of entrepreneurs. The fact that they were focusing this can-do attitude on addressing social imbalances was icing on the cake. I just love being around people like this!
One of my top 2 dreams is to own my own business. While my at-times jaded attitude toward international development has often fueled fantasies of "screw this I'm going to open a handbag boutique, become a textile maker or ceramist, etc." I really left this conference convinced that I could take my desire to go into business and blend it with my current interest in working with populations in developing countries. Clearly I'm not sure how to go about this, but that is something I can learn.
I feel like there are still BIG things in store for me so I just have to keep reminding myself not to play small....
On that note, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
*social entrepreneurs generally used bring entrepreneurship to ventures that have a social mission.