A Social Innovation Story, Impactathon 2020

I’m not the biggest fan of social media, but I do appreciate the benefit of making connections on digital platforms, as I never know when someone will reach out with an interesting offer. Such was the case when Neetal Parekh sent me a note on LinkedIn. Having seen some of my answers on Quora in regards to my time spent organizing TEDx events, she had a few questions about the TEDx model.

It turns out Neetal was an event organizer in her own right, having produced a series of Impactathons as a way to inspire social entrepreneurs in their quest to tackle the world’s most pressing social issues. She’s also the author of the book 51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship, the host of The Impact Podcast by Innov8social, as well as a frequent speaker, facilitator, and moderator on topics including social enterprises and social entrepreneurship.

Her next event, Impactathon for Future Flourishing, was focused on the vexing problem of global poverty, and after our deep dive into the crazy world of TEDx organizing, Neetal ask if I would like to be an Impact Catalyst and provide the participants with a few tips on storytelling. I was happy to help.

Innov8social Impactathon 2020

Preceding the Impactathon I had the pleasure of recording an interview along with Mwihaki Muraguri, an impact storyteller and Principal at Paukwa House. We had a great conversation in regards to storytelling in the social impact arena as the entrepreneurs formed teams and began crafting their pitches.

Curious About Impactathon?

Impactathon 2020 Executive Summary

What is an Impactathon®?

Impactathons are impact-focused hackathon experiences designed to engage participants in mapping problems and designing solutions that address the needs of our global society. Teams of social entrepreneurs come up with innovative ideas for creating change, and the process culminates with brief pitches before a panel of judges.

  • Designed for learning – They incorporate best practices from the science of learning including focused and diffuse learning.
  • Engaging a problem-solving mindset – Providing frameworks and incorporating design-thinking principles.
  • Co-created with local partners – Providing frameworks and incorporating design-thinking principles.

Why Engage in an Impactathon®?

  • Hear Impact Talks from thinkers and doers in the space.
  • On topics such as how to identify gaps in a system, why some social enterprises fail, how to stay aligned with a mission, how to create a meaningful career in social impact.
  • Engage in social impact through a hackathon experience.
  • Including design thinking approach, getting feedback, using concepts of lean methodology, pivoting, working in teams, pitching, using storytelling and presentation techniques.
  • Learn core concepts of engaging in the social impact sector.
  • Such as how to frame a problem (root causes v. symptom), how to adopt a social entrepreneurship mindset, examples of business models, legal structures, and ways to measure social impact.
  • Join a global community of aligned impact problem solvers.
  • Meet your next co-founder, investor, or team member during Impactathon. After the event, you will have the option to join and engage with fellow Impactathoners, including participants, speakers, and mentors and learn about emerging resources in the space.

What Do Participants Say?

“Impactathon embodies the spirit of social innovation in an organic, authentic way through programmed problem solving, real collaboration, and action-oriented ideation.”

“There is something about being surrounded by passionate, innovative people who truly want to make the world better. Impactathon is a fun and collaborative experience that is incredibly energizing.”

“What really impressed me about the Impactathon was how it offered its participants different outlets to generate ideas, or simply get the creative juices flowing.”

Hats off to Neetal and all of the social impact entrepreneurs who participated in this year’s Impactathon!

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The Successful Pitch with John Livesay

I had the pleasure of meeting John Livesay when he joined the Speaker Adventure storytelling program that I hosted with hall-of-fame speaker Jeff Salz, and we’ve been friends ever since. John’s podcast, The Successful Pitch, which is a must listen for entrepreneurs and business leaders, focuses on how to make your pitch compelling, clear and concise.

John is a renowned keynote speaker who shares the lessons learned from his award-winning sales career while at Conde Nast. In his keynote Better Selling Through Storytelling he shows companies’ sales teams how to become irresistible so they are magnetic to their ideal clients.

It was such an honor to work with John on his TEDx Talk – Be The Lifeguard of Your Own Life! from TEDxWilmington that has over a million views. We reconnected for a conversation on his podcast – Storytelling With Impact: The Secrets To Giving A TEDx Talk With Mark Lovett – and it was fun to share a few storytelling insights. Give a listen and let me know your thoughts.

TEDx talk, storytelling, Storytelling with Impact, public speaking, speaker coach, emotions versus the logic Read more

Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Sharing Ideas in San Diego

Whenever I get an email from the San Diego Diplomacy Council, I know something interesting is afoot. In this case, it was a group of entrepreneurs with the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative coming to San Diego, and they wanted to know if I could develop a storytelling workshop for them. How could I possibly resist.

San Diego Diplomacy Council Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative

The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) builds linkages between younger leaders across the hemisphere and address the opportunity gap for youth, especially women, by empowering entrepreneurs and civil society leaders with the training, tools, networks and resources they need to transform their societies and contribute more fully to economic development and prosperity, security, human rights and good governance in the hemisphere.

On October 20th I had the pleasure of meeting a dozen entrepreneurs from a dozen Latin America and Caribbean countries who had founded a dozen very cool companies, each with a different focus.

Aarón Bendfeldt, founder & executive director of Grønn (Guatemala)

Aarón Bendfeldt Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeGrønn upcycles glass bottles collected from Guatemala City, then makes and sells new glasses, pots, vases, and other products, all handmade by local women.

He previously participated in SPOR, an exchange program between Guatemala and Norway. Aarón is studying Chemical Engineering at the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala.


Altagrace M. Maignan, founder of Belle Créole (Haiti)

Alatagrace Maignan Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeBelle Créole is a micro-enterprise program that empowers people, particularly young women, who are living with HIV and AIDS to rise above their circumstances through learning a skill and creating and selling their work.

She serves as a Manager at Fondation Esther Boucicault Stanislas. Altagrace holds a Master’s Degree in medicine from the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo.


Andrea Baltodano, founder of Maracao Beachwear (Costa Rica)

Andrea Baltodano Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeMaracao Beachwear designs swimwear that promotes women’s confidence and empowerment, while helping at-risk women from marginalized neighborhoods by offering ethical employment practices and fair wages to its employees.

Andrea holds an Associate’s Degree in Fashion Design from the Universidad Creativa of Costa Rica.


Carolina Ramos, founder & COO, Natural Pop (Ecuador)

Carolina Ramos Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeNatural Pop produces natural snacks out of local grains from Ecuador in order to provide affordable and healthy snacks to the local community.

Carolina has a degree in Food Engineering from the Universidad San Francisco de Quito and attended graduate school for French and Social Skills at the Institute de la Providence de Herve in Belgium.


Christine Daley, founder of DoodleSurprize (Jamaica)

Christine Daley Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeDoodleSurprize provides monthly subscription activity boxes for children ages 4-12 in order to help kids discover themselves and their passion through art, crafts, and science.

Christine has previously worked in Accounting, Marketing, and Project Management at Digicel Jamaica, Zinergy International, and Black Ink Marketing.


Jau Ramírez, co-founder & president of Movimiento SOMOS (Venezuela)

Jau Ramírez Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeMovimiento SOMOS is dedicated to defending the rights of LGBTQ people through legal counseling and legislative projects, as well as educational and cultural initiatives.

He also works as a Communications Coordinator for Grupo Social CESEAP, and has led communications trainings for a human rights program on the border of Colombia and Venezuela.


Junieth Machado, founder of Cousy (Nicaragua)

Junieth Machado Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeCousy seeks to increase the self-esteem of housewives and single mothers by developing their business and communication skills. as well as inform women of their rights and train them on violence prevention.

Junieth previously worked for DeHumoTV as a journalist and producer, Imaginarte Films/Abre Tus Ojos as a trainer.


Miguel Ángeles, co-founder of CIRSYS (Peru)

Miguel Ángeles Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeCIRSYS provides technological solutions to recycling and waste management with IRBin, a social robot that automatically classifies solid waste.

Miguel previously worked as a production manager at Corporación Ingelsa S.A.C. and as a junior project engineer at Gloria S.A.


Pedro Young Parietti, co-founder & GM of Huerta en Casa (Uruguay)

Pedro Young Parietti Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeHuerta en Casa supports urban homeowners so that they can produce vegetables organically by providing all the tools necessary to start a home vegetable garden and advises on maintenance and production.

Pedro has previously worked at Estero S.A., a seed production company, where he managed the experimental field.


Roniel Guzmán Toribio, CEO of Hub Makerspace (Dominican Republic)

Roniel Guzmán Toribio Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeHub Makerspace gives members access to workspaces, tools, and machinery – from sewing machines to 3D printers – allowing them to develop their projects and work with the guidance of mentors.

Roniel previously worked as a Project Manager at Domotics Dominicana, and he holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo.


Shamiro Anita, founder & CEO of Bizness Success (Curaçao)

Shamiro Anita Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeBizness Success provides growing businesses with help and services to expand, such as training, courses, software, and other tools.Before this, Shamiro worked at his family’s video store and eventually became the manager. He started his own fire safety, security, and automation contracting company in 2012. Shamiro holds a Bachelor’s in Business Administration and a Master’s in Business Management and Organizational Control.


Stephanie Hong, co-founder of Garateá (Brazil)

Stephanie Hong Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeGarateá tackles the inefficiency in emergency public services by empowering communities with first-aid training and certification, as well as alerting first-aid-qualified volunteers through an app, victims can be helped before ambulances arrive, even in rural communities. Stephanie is currently a Lawyer at Pinheiro Neto Advogados.


After going through the basics of personal storytelling, and a session on brand storytelling, many of the entrepreneurs got up and gave the audience a two minute overview of their company, and the ways in which their product or service would changes lives.

That’s the reward I get when working with entrepreneurs, especially from outside the United States – so passionate and dedicated – focused on the the critical issues that millions face in everyday life.

Hats off the the San Diego Diplomacy Council and the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative for allowing entrepreneurs to share ideas, wisdom, and best practices, across countries and continents.

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Creating a Storytelling Workshop for African Entrepreneurs

I get requests to conduct storytelling workshops from a variety of sources, from business networks to startups and professional organizations. But I was recently asked to craft a storytelling workshop for a group of amazing African entrepreneurs who were coming to American as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship program. At first I assumed they were high school or college students, just getting started in their career, but I was way off the mark on that assumption.

Mandela Washington Fellowship at University of San Diego

I began the workshop, as all such meetings do, with introductions from each of the attendees in the room. In the U.S. we think of states, but in Africa, it’s countries. Zambia, Togo, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Mauritius, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, South Sudan, and Nigeria (I’m sure I missed a few) were all represented as each of the women and men spoke up.

The Uber of tutors, a novel payment collection system, a philanthropic software platform, sports journaling and entrepreneurial accelerators were mentioned. Many of these “students” had already started 2 or 3 companies and were changing lives in their communities.

I wasn’t sure what the entrepreneurs most wanted to hear most – I had no chance to speak to them before the workshop began – so I created a hybrid that combined the essentials of a great TED/TEDx talk, with material from my brand storytelling workshops. It turned out to be a good mix, as the entrepreneurs articulated their brand philosophy and tactics like savvy business leaders.

Joseph Oliver Wani AYAN Africa

Joseph Oliver Wani was one of the remarkable leaders sitting directly in front of me. As the finance manager for the African Youth Action Network (AYAN), Joseph was dedicated to helping refugees from South Sudan.

Founded in June 2015, in Uganda by South Sudanese young people, AYAN has worked directly with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) to support South Sudanese young refugees to receive scholarships to study in Uganda. The organization believes that Illiteracy is one of the major cause of conflict in South Sudan. The organization is currently registered in South Sudan with a branch in Uganda and looking forward to opening in Kenya.

African Youth Action Network (AYAN)At AYAN, we believe that the youth are well positioned to organize and participate in promoting a movement of sustainable peace through the organization of positive, non-violent, community-building activities, through trainings, mentorship, community outreach programmes in the Great Lakes Region and other volatile Parts of Africa.

In the United States the refugee crisis – which has reached staggering numbers – is not something we think about very often, as it’s “over there” somewhere, yet the impact on humanity will be felt for generations to come. And to be honest, it wasn’t a topic that I expected to materialize when I was getting ready to conduct this workshop – entrepreneur and refugee crisis didn’t mix in my mind.Refuge Figures July 2017 UNHCR

As to Joseph, I had the opportunity to continue the conversation a week later during closing night ceremonies on the University of San Diego campus. He had just spent the the past six weeks in the U.S. studying business and entrepreneurship, and he was excited to return to his work, to apply the skills and insights gained, not to create the latest widget or cool app, but to help those fleeing violence in their home country. I couldn’t have been more proud of this young man.

In closing, my thanks go to the San Diego Diplomacy Council who played a major role in the program and invited me to participate. I’m sure I learned more from the process than the students.

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