Author: Mark Adams
Last month, Amanda Eller, Prosper Nyovanie and I attended the Young Scholars Alumni Meeting in Marbach, Germany as Business Fellows representatives. The primary attendees were 20 academics: PHDs, professors and researchers who, over the past five years, have attended the annual Jacobs Foundations Research Fellows conferences focusing on different areas of early childhood development.
This was a real privilege and a serious meeting of minds - all three of us learned so much from interacting with the attendees. We were there to bring a different perspective to the table through an interactive session on social enterprises: what are they, how you start one, and the surprising number of structures and objectives they share with academic research and interventions. The goal of including us was to spark innovation and cross-pollinate ideas across the Foundation's different fellowship groups, and I think the results surpassed most of our expectations.
We were helped immensely by the speakers at the beginning of the week, from Sarah-Jayne Blackmore who framed the week right at the start to include conversations beyond the scientific community, to Joanne Gerstner and Ron Dahl who brought in perspectives and tips on external communications and influencing policy. Most relevant of all was the keynote from Julie Kientz on her personal 12-year journey turning her academic research into a social enterprise. Combined with the Human Center Design course run by Julie and Lana Yarosh, the attendees were primed with ideas and inspiration for our session, making our work much easier!
My favorite part of the social enterprise session was listening in on the different groups as they transformed academic passions into business ideas and seeing the "aha" moments during the process as, by fitting research into new frameworks of thinking, they recognized opportunities to bring their work to the world in different ways. Whether it was through establishing product-market fit, scalability, or sustainability, the participants were excited by the possibilities that come from launching a social enterprise. As facilitators, we were also excited to see the impressive, impactful, and potentially very viable business ideas that came out of just a few hours of discussion. We were so glad for the chance to spend the week getting to know this group of people, and plan to stay connected and possibly even collaborate on some of these ideas in the future!
You can view some photos from our time at beautiful Schloss Marbach on the Network: https://www.jacobsnetwork.org/media_center/folders/f1bd81a1-e255-4082-8192-68622a218620