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Tuesday
May082012

Rebellious Optimism = Innovation

Optimism is the greatest act of rebellion.  So says my friend Carmen Medina.  If anyone doubts the veracity of that statement, evidence abounds in the form of people – of all ages, shapes and sizes – and especially by kids (e.g., anyone under 40).   To say I’m awed by what they are doing is an understatement.  They don’t take ‘no’ as an answer but a challenge; they view entrepreneurship and capitalism as an inherently social venture; they take system-level approaches to solving problems and by nature collaborate.   Their acts of rebellion are shaping a better world for all of us.

So, I’m going to regularly share “Optimism Greatest Act Rebellion Stories” with you and ask you to share your Optimism stories with the rest of us!  Let me start with an incredible young woman I met this past weekend at the Celebration of 120 years of Women at Brown.

Kona Shen graduated in 2010 with an honors thesis on the impact of foreign aid on Haiti’s environment and ways the international community could improve aid efforts.  Not your average thesis.  But moreso, Kona is not your average 24yr old - her poise, wisdom, leadership, business acumen and management skills are on par As a C.V. Starr Fellow at Brown, Kona was already drawn to Haiti and wanted to blend “social” and “entrepreneurship” to make a difference. After graduation, she founded, and runs, GOALS Haiti, a self-sustaining non-profit in Haiti that uses kids’ obsessive passion for soccer to engage youth in community work and education, improving their quality of life while teaching them leadership.  Children are taught how to create safe, clean, healthy environments and bodies for playing soccer.  The teams (adults, counselors, and kids) clean up their neighborhoods, collecting litter, trash collection, recycle, plant vegetable gardens, access mobile clinics, and build temporary shelters and public sanitation facilities.  GOALS Haiti uniquely emphasizes developing local capacity and youth leadership so its efforts are sustainable.  Currently, over 600 children are served a month in Haiti which also impacts their families, currently improving the lives of over 3500 Haitians a month.

There are many more fabulous stories of Rebellious Optimism to share.   One of my favorites is Runa, a B-Corp started by some Brown soccer players, classes of ’08.  Their story of doing well and doing good is one of the most powerful I’ve seen in blending innovative business models, techniques, processes and social impact.

So, if you’re worried about where this country is going, about our seemingly gridlocked government, relax a little.  There are amazing young people usurping government’s roles in productive, efficient and effective ways.  Perhaps Gov. 3.0 will be back in the hands of the people!  

Please contribute your own stories of Rebellious Optimism!

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