Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Global Engagment Summit: A Light of Hope in a Gray Year

Wellesley College student, Catlin Powers, is the co-founder of One Earth Designs. The organization helps Himalayan communities, "achieve their unique visions of sustainable living through science/engineering education and infrastructure development."

Lori Hanna is one of four college students from the University of Dayton who founded Salud del Sol. Salud del Sol's mission is to, "provide communities in Nicaragua with the opportunity to improve their own healthcare systems while supporting sustainable development that creates jobs for members of these communities."

Lauren Vegter, a Sloan Management Science and Operations Research student, is one of the founding members of MIT International Development Consulting. MIT IDC's mission is to, "improve the efficiency and sustainability of international development efforts using the business knowledge and engineering talent of MIT students."

These young women were just three of 80 student social entrepreneurs who attended the Global Engagement Summit last week at Northwestern University in Chicago. The delegates represented 17 countries and 40 universities with projects in 43 countries.

During the capacity building conference, students took "core curriculum" workshops that covered asset-based community development, grantwriting, impact assessment and metrics, and mission and vision development. They also took workshops related to challenges in grassroots development, innovations in social change, social change tools (like blogging!), and business skills.

I was lucky enough to attend GES as a blogging workshop facilitator and student mentor, along with over forty session leaders from organizations like the Acumen Fund, Global Citizen Year, Social Capital Media, Fast Forward Fund, World Vision, GlobalGiving, Ashoka,, the World Bank, and many more.

Needless to say, it was an awesome experience!

I came away from the event hopeful and energized that so many young people not only have ideas for how to make the world a better place, but also have the skills, energy and support to make their ideas real. When I came back to California from Chicago it really felt like spring, not just because the sun and flowers were out, but because in spite of all the terrible things happening around the world right now, I know that there are young people who are undaunted by today's challenges, and are using their skills to make the world a better place.

If you'd like to read more about the conference, check out Nathaniel Whittemore's Social Entrepreneurship blog on He's the founding Director of the Center for Global Engagement at Northwestern University. Patrick O'Heffernan also blogged from the event on his Social Edge blog, Dr. O on Funding.

I'd encourage you to check out fellow GES facilitator Kjerstin Erickson's blog, Forging Ahead, on Social Edge too. Kjerstin founded FORGE, an organization that works with displaced communities in Africa, when she was 20 in 2003. Like most of the young people I met at GES, she is a *sparkly* person.

Cross-posted from

Bookmark and Share


  1. It was so great to have you here Britt! Thanks for *your* inspiration and your validation of all of our staff and delegates big ideas!

  2. I think your blog title is too glum. After all, Barack Obama took office in January! That was an inspirational start to the year.

  3. Thanks for having inviting me to participate, Nathaniel.

    Derek, yes, it was an inspiring start to the year, absolutely, but I gotta say, the increasing number of empty store fronts in my neighborhood and the 2 million jobs lost so far in 2009 has been bringing me down--I'm glad it's not bringing you down (:

  4. Thanks for the shout out! I am still digesting the conference and coming to realize the huge value it will have for our organization.

  5. One last thing I want to say - the conference is entirely led by students - about 100 of them who spend a full year planning this and educating themselves for no course credit or anything other than their sheer passion for learning and social change. If that's not inspiring, I don't know what is.

  6. Thanks for adding that Nathaniel--I totally forgot to add that very inspiring piece of info about GES.

  7. Wow--what an experience! So bummed that I couldn't make it. It sounds like quite a moving experience from all sides.

    Thanks for sharing your insights about the event with us Brit.

  8. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Alex. Some of the students' projects are upon Global Giving too.


If you are having trouble commenting, please let me know.