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Five Lessons to Drive Big Bold Change

Last month Echoing Green held our All Fellows Conference, an annual gathering bringing together the world’s most promising social entrepreneurs, impact investors, and thought leaders for peer learning, workshops, and advisory sessions. More than 150 Fellows gathered in Mumbai, together representing almost three decades of extraordinary individuals from across the globe doing extraordinary work in poverty alleviation, breaking the school-to-prison pipeline, increasing diversity in tech – the list goes on and on.

The All Fellows Conference celebrated the diverse landscape of social entrepreneurship and the importance of creating spaces for the cross-pollination of ideas, perspectives and movements across geographies and sectors. It also allowed our Fellows and guests to connect, share, and learn from each other through the special Echoing Green lens of being bold—embracing risk and seizing opportunities for deeper, longer-lasting impact.

So…here’s what happens when 150 Echoing Green Fellows live, breathe, and debate social change amidst the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s largest cities:

1.You take risks, share your learnings, and immerse yourself in fresh ideas.

With Mumbai as the backdrop for this year’s conference, our Fellows working in India welcomed us to the city and shared the cultural context of their work as social change agents in India.

People working on the ground are closest to the solutions and are keenly aware of the challenges they face. The key learnings from their own work often serve as the best teachable moments for their fellow entrepreneurs. Our hands-on peer learning sessions created a forum for the exchange of ideas across industries, and pushed Fellows outside of their comfort zones to explore alternative solutions to commonly faced challenges such as fundraising as an NGO, developing key performance indicators that reflect the scope of their impact, or even sharing tricks and tips for personal time management. At an Echoing Green Fellowship information session delivered in partnership with the U.S. Global Development Lab of USAID, we saw seeds of brand-new ideas sprouting from over 90 emerging social entrepreneurs from across India. Connections like these confirm that you can achieve a bigger impact when you are open to both receiving support and sharing your talents among your community.

2.You understand that global problems need global solutions. 

It’s not news that Echoing Green Fellows are part of a growing social change ecosystem, each tackling a lofty challenge. Our stance on the ecosystem? To solve big, we need to think bigger.

This year we convened Industry Roundtables, where Fellows, impact investors, and social change agents from Mumbai gathered with other members from their sectors – ranging from education and health and tech, to energy and environment – to discuss challenges facing their spaces. As stakeholders from the same sectors who hold different perspectives and roles, the conversations got past the to-do lists of their work to think about bigger, bolder ideas to amplify more effective solutions. Bringing more voices to the table will expand your vision of what’s possible – and create more advocates to help make that vision a reality.

You can see your hard work pay off.

This conference represented the first time Fellows had gathered together in over a year, and also introduced the 2014 Fellows to the broader community. Amidst sharing updates about their work, personal milestones, and new challenges came the opportunity to share in each other’s triumphs.

Fellows and non-Fellows showed each other what’s working – and what continues to challenge them – at visits to social impact organizations, foundations, and schools running on the ground in Mumbai. Experiencing these new contexts connected to familiar challenges was a strong reminder about gaining perspective: immersing yourself in the work of others can reinforce and supplement your understanding of your own.

4.The most unlikely allies can become your own personal problem-solvers.

Though we label our Fellows social entrepreneurs, they’re also social justice activists, human rights advocates, climate change pioneers – and they each share an entrepreneurial spirit that contributes impactful, innovative ideas across sectors. It can take diverse allies to uphold the integrity and deepen the impact of their work. Corporate partners like Bloomberg, Bank of America, and Barclays joined representatives from foundations to leverage their unique skills to advise Fellows on a problem during Echoing Green’s Brain Trust series. Participants walked away with new networks, fresh ideas, and reassurance that it does take a village to foster social change. Reaching out to strange bedfellows can help you see problems and solutions in a whole new way.

5.You receive support and acceptance to sustain you for the tough road ahead. 

Perhaps the most important takeaway from this conference is that bringing together this passionate and ambitious community fosters a sense of belonging among those whose work can sometimes feel lonely and isolated.

It’s not by chance that Echoing Green works to create a supportive environment for our Fellows. In Mumbai, the support came not only from one another, but also from funders, guests, and even partners and family members who joined for some of the conference activities. This is a community that goes beyond just a “network.” This is an ecosystem that Fellows can turn to for support, ideas, and to find new answers to hard questions. Take the time to identify and nurture supportive communities in your own life to reenergize you and your work as you persevere over the long haul. 

This is the first time Echoing Green hosted this annual conference outside of the United States—made possible by the “Priming the Pump” public-private partnership with USAID, General Atlantic, Newman’s Own Foundation, The Pershing Square Foundation, and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

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