More than 150 Echoing Green Fellows gathered in Joburg for the 2015 All Fellows Conference to refine and re-energize their leadership. Here's what we learned.
Echoing Green Fellows Gather to Celebrate and Collaborate
In early December, over three hundred Echoing Green Fellows, former colleagues, and friends gathered in New York City for our annual All Fellows Conference. It was the largest gathering of Fellows we’ve ever had, representing nearly all of our classes over the past twenty-five years. We marveled at the network that has become the Echoing Green family over the years and we were reminded by how much can come from just creating common community.
With the 2013 Fellowship application deadline just closing yesterday, we can’t help but think about the changemakers who will join our family next year. We know, more than ever, that there is incredible power in supporting and nurturing individuals who have impossible visions to change the world.
Giants like Wendy Kopp, Van Jones, Michael Brown, Alan Khazei, Mayor Angel Taveras, Vanessa Kirsch, and JB Schramm joined alongside Fellows from our most recent classes to honor our founder, Ed Cohen.
While they all had difference reflections on their journeys as social entrepreneurs, a few common themes were evident:
Remember your family and friends
Being an entrepreneur is difficult, it can be isolating, lonely, and arduous. Remember that you have a support system around you—but don’t neglect them. Michael Brown recalled a time when he and his co-founder Alan Khazei were working into the wee hours to launch City Year, but he also had a wife and newborn son at home. Ed Cohen noticed and told him that he needed to take some time off and with some arm-pulling, Michael spent the next four weeks bonding with his family.
Your family and friends will always be there to support you, but that doesn’t mean you can forget to say thank you.
Responsibility isn’t easy
When you become an entrepreneur, particularly a social entrepreneur, there is a weight of responsibility that comes with it—after all, you have a lot of people depending on you, not just your team, but also the people whose lives’ you hope to impact. So your community of colleagues, friends, family, funders, and spiritual leaders are even more important. Seek them out all the time, and certainly in moments of despair. Van Jones, a 1994 Echoing Green Fellow, told us of multiple moments in his career when he sought spiritual counseling to help move forward to next steps.
Responsibility should not be a burden, but rather, an opportunity to do better.
Mentors are important. Get one. Don’t know how to find one—here’s a little advice on how to do it. Since founding Echoing Green twenty-five years ago, Ed Cohen has served as a mentor to countless Fellows, offering advice, contacts, money, a nudge, but usually just a listening ear. While we honored Ed that Friday morning, there were just as many “I love you’s” to “thank-yous.”
Your mentors are your champions when you need them the most.
Take care of yourself
It’s a given, but something many entrepreneurs forget to do. When Michael went to spend a month with his family, or when Van sought out a counselor, or when Vanessa reached out to Ed for some encouraging advice, they were all better entrepreneurs for it.
It’s a new year and an opportunity to dream bigger dreams. Be mindful of your own well-being and remember to say thank you a little more often.
Check out the All Fellows Conference photo album on our Facebook timeline to see and share more pictures from the weekend: http://ht.ly/gDXHg
Entrepreneurs face unequal challenges even before getting in an investor's door. Data illustrates disparities in the social innovation sector.
One clear way to drive change is to invest in leaders who have a direct connection to the communities they serve.