16 February 2008

Intensely Innovative & African Day!

This morning I joined MIT colleagues from Engineering and elsewhere to specify what the goals and methods ought to be for the new Gordon Engineering Leadership program. This initiative spearheaded by Professors Ed Crawley and Joel Schindall -- and financed by MIT alumnus entrepreneur Bernie Gordon -- is all about educating and inspiring MIT engineering undergraduates to found, build, and lead the organizations which will solve the planet's most pressing problems.

At least that's what I think it ought to do.

There's lots of cooks in that particular kitchen, alas, and I fear the program will be crafted by committee and be far too timid.

Later I met with our MIT Developmental Entrepreneurship-IDRC Seed Grant recipient Sherife Messih whose SPARK! initiative promises to catalyze youth entrepreneurship and innovation in Egypt. Sherife is all about identifying promising up-and-coming talent in his homeland, Egypt, and educating and inspiring them towards greatness. (And yes, I do think the Gordon Program folks would benefit from financially and intellectually engaging Sherife, since he's been doing pretty much what they've been talking about.)

Then I met in Harvard Square with MIT undergrad alum Charles Boatin and a couple of his current colleagues at HBS. They're all organizing IMAGINE, their Social Enterprise conference in early March and I agreed to moderate what promises to be a great panel on transformative technologies. Our core realization was that to have sustainable social impact, the truly "social enterprise" ought to be profitable, replicable, and scalable. And that's not merely "top-down thinking" as some faux experts might quibble. This is relevant and rigorous and precisely what this space urgently needs.

Charles & co dropped me off at the Harvard "housing projects" nearby where I joined the dinner discussion of a couple dozen Kennedy School Mason Fellows who are deeply interested in transformative leadership and dramatic change in their home countries. I shared my own experience co-creating and running the joint MIT Media Lab / Sloan School of Management class on Developmental Entrepreneurship and personal startup Howtoons, a spinoff from that class. Others at the dinner spoke of their experiences in the Philippines / South East Asia and Kenya / East Africa and Nigeria / West Africa. The talent and experience and passion in the room was palpable and very exciting! Lots of cross-connections to be made, introductions and links and follow-ups and more...

We finished the evening with a sense of promising things to come. An additional element in the mix is the HBS African Business Conference happening this weekend, with a great line-up of keynotes, panels, and events!

I'll be at part of this African Business Conference and also at the AAAS mega-conference on Science together with my Howtoons superhero illustrator colleague Nick Dragotta. It is Family Science Days at the conference and the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention & Innovation has been kind enough to host us for DIY demos!

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