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The Feast: Activating Ideas, Building Change From Bottom Up

Action speak louder than words: The Feast brings a proverb to life.

Submitted by: Gregory Papajohn

Posted: Sep 13, 2012 – 09:57 AM EST

Tags: the feast, social change, entrepreneurs, social enterprise, innovation, csr


By Gregory Papajohn and Lee Ann Zondag

Let’s face it. A lot of people have come up with a lot of good ideas for society. And, that feels good. Some may see a paralysis of choice in the helping of ideas and say, “Hey, let’s choose one and devour it.”

Jerri Chou, founder of The Feast Social Innovation Conference, agrees. “We’re looking for action, not necessarily more ideas.”

We sat down with Jerri, recently named to Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business, one-month out from the first-ever global Social Innovation Week, hosted by The Feast, to understand what, exactly, she meant by that. Jerri started by pointing out two well-known routes toward social good:

  1. One-off: direct one person to do one thing like wearing a yellow wristband to support a cause.
  2. Crowdsourced: ask everyone with a dollar or a dream to give you an idea.

“Getting ideas out there is great. But the act of completing the idea is more powerful,” she explained. “The world needs more people understanding what they’re capable of achieving.” Jerri sees a middle ground between the one-off and crowdsourced directives to do/give one small thing, that is, encouraging the participation of many people to build something together.

“Take wikis. When you feel like you have agency you start to feel power, a power to see what you’re capable of completing,” notes Jerri.

Enter The Feast

Similar to the popular proverb, “actions speak louder than words,” The Feast challenges those who The Feastwant to do good to move beyond talking and start doing. “We have to take action. We have to make a commitment to apply our individual skills and talents to achieve that better world,” states Jerri.

An impressive speaker lineup of doers and innovators will activate Feast attendees through challenges – in the fields of health, data, open design and poverty; toolkits – presented on topics from ideation to storytelling to help attendees approach opportunities from totally new perspectives; and over 50 intimate roundtables, allowing attendees to gather and respond to challenges. A few of this year’s speakers include:

  • Neil Blumenthal, Co-founder and Co-CEO, Warby Parker
  • Bre Pettis, CEO, Makerbot
  • Beth Comstock, CMO, General Electric
  • Jim Adams, Deputy Chief Technologist, NASA
  • Gillian Ferrabee, Creative Director, Cirque du Soleil

The Feast is a medium for the people “in between,” for people “trying to make it happen” to build a brighter future from the bottom up.

“It’s a time, a space, a format that you make your own. While creating ideas and models is part of the [platform’s] process, [The Feast is] about you personally finding and then creating value with others, not simply fitting into the [one-off or crowdsourced] template.”

On the last day of The Feast Conference (October 5th), the broader community will be invited to a Global Dinner Party where hub cities such as Singapore, Istanbul, Urtrect, Mexico City, Auckland and Jerri ChouPhiladelphia – alongside the hundreds of individually organized dinners – will host dinners to kickoff a new project – guests can choose to respond to a challenge issued by speakers or hash out a project of their own – to make the world a better place.

Shifting Eras: Finding & Creating Value

Jerri contextualizes this middle space by describing our era’s shift from a linear industrial life—where one gets an education, finds a job, assures her productive place in the world— to the newer service- and creator-based life – marked by “me finding value and creating value.” The new service- and creative-based life calls for people to make an active decision about what they want to do.

You figure it out. You decide. You build your life accordingly, as opposed to fitting into a life template.

Though this sentiment has personal meaning for Jerri, she believes it applies to everybody in the startup world, and quite frankly, anybody who simply wants to work in the future. “Future work will be more digitally-connected, more fluid and will offer more options in terms of the types of work, positions and jobs. With more flexibility and possibilities for careers, the working community needs to be adaptable to change and embrace this new way of defining one’s path.”

With this approach, we will remain relevant and have a better chance of reaching our creativity and action potentials.

Change Makers: First & Foremost Business Experts

For aspiring change-makers, Jerri stresses the importance of seeking sound business advisors that have experience in the field and can provide outside perspective. If you want to make clean water accessible to regions that don’t have it, you have to be more than an individual that wants to change life, you have to be an expert in water. “Be humble to admit what you don’t know and surround yourself with people who do know.”

Social Change: We're Done Waiting

So what’s the benefit for companies and foundations to invest in and partner with Change-makers?

“[Change-makers] are harbingers of what’s to come,” says Jerri. “Prospective corporate or nonprofit partners will be working at the ground level with those who are talking about and creating the future that’s coming.”

So are we at capacity for new ideas? Jerri doesn't think so. Change-maker ideas help us focus and give us a surer sense of the world around us.

The Feast will begin October 3rd. Join us and follow the exciting developments between now and then at @feastongood.

About the Authors:

Gregory Papajohn is the Executive Director of Change, the social impact business of global public relations firm GolinHarris. He specializes in rightful role design, corporate brand communication, and achieving the simple bottom line: social impact. With his wife Suzanne Robitaille, Gregory co-founded social enterprise abledbody, a platform dedicated to disability consumers and inclusive business. He helped to launched and now advises The Purple Crayon, a non-profit center for learning and social innovation. Here, Gregory hopes to incite change for good. Follow his tweets at @digi_papa and @GH_Change and connect on LinkedIn.

Lee Ann Zondag is part of the Change team at GolinHarris in New York and believes that brands should be driven by values. An avid consumer of all things social impact-related, she informs social good initiatives, educates colleagues and partners, and designs and communicates social impact programs. Lee Ann helps businesses live up to their values and brands – the promises they make – and return a social profit to society. She is always on the hunt for new partners, research and resources to help companies realize their good-business potential. You can follow her thoughts and ponderings on Twitter at @LeeAnnZ_GH and @GH_Change and can connect on LinkedIn.

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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