May 06, 2013

DWE Australia Meets SEEED Summit

-Amy Gobeille, DWE Australia Student 
Picture: Opening remarks by Alan Harlam at the SEEED Summit
By 8:30 am Friday April 26, 2013, Sayles Hall at Brown University was boisterous and booming as all types of professionals were meeting new people, networking, and spreading ideas.  As the members of my class arrived, we soon realized that we were ten of youngest people in the building and soon became intimidated and meek.  My class, the students in the Direct Work Experience Australia class, frankly didn’t understand what we were getting into.  Instead of engaging in our opportunity to network, we opted out, grabbed breakfast and scurried to our seats.  As we sat, mainly in silence, a few of us whispered, “When is this going to start?” “Where are we presenting?” “When are we presenting?”  The nerves were finally kicking in, and we were ready to get this presentation over with.
Medhi Moutahir, our professor who guided us, gave us a topic, and challenged us to get to where we were now sitting at the Social Enterprise Ecosystem Economic Development Summit, hadn’t really prepared us for to whom and when we were presenting , so as time passed we became even more anxious.  The SEED conference began with two hours of opening remarks, what SEEED was all about and their initiative, followed by a keynote conversation.   
SEEED, a conference created by collaboration between Brown University and Social Enterprise Greenhouse, is a national conference that focuses on what is needed to build an effective social enterprise ecosystem that can drive economic development.  Educators, entrepreneurs, business professionals, students, and those who just wanted to educate themselves, gathered from around New England to see what building social enterprise ecosystems was all about. 
After being enlightened by the presentations, we all gathered to get to our next destination, they Keeney Arnold Lounge where three of our members only had a few minutes to prepare their speeches.  As we waited to begin our presentation, the room had filled up.  Considering originally seven people had signed up to sit in on our presentation and discuss ways to expand the social enterprise ecosystem, it was a surprising yet nerve-wracking moment. 
As our presentation group, comprised of Tim, Molly, and Emily, took the floor, they presented the idea of creating a prototype that may be considered for an exchange program between Johnson and Wales University and the International College of Management Sydney in Australia. By taking part in this program, Molly explained, we as students have the opportunity to expand and collaborate on an entrepreneurial experience in which they face obstacles in and learn how to implement those very skills.  For the last week and a half in May, we will visit Sydney and create a documentary on sustainability, overfishing, and the “Fisherman to Table” movement.
Emily, our guru on sustainability, explained that the focus we determined ahead of time was on seafood sustainability in the marine ecosystems of Rhode Island and Sydney.  We are studying and researching each marine ecosystem, and mainly the issue of overfishing in both regions to compare and contrast the two.  The idea is to find organizations that support the cause of maintaining our marine ecosystems, Tim explained, as well as spread our knowledge we gain after our experience is over to educational conferences that we may be able to attend.   At these types of conferences we can educate people on the "Fisherman to Table" movement, being that the fisherman sells directly to restaurants and markets, in hopes that we can leave our footprint for future supporters to find a solution.
After our presentation, we opened the floor to ideas and questions to the professional listening to our presentation.  It was great to hear all the feedback, considering we had never presented our ideas to anyone except professor Moutahir.  The rest of our hour was finished with a group discussion on how we can come from all different backgrounds and places and become “thought leaders”.  By becoming “thought leaders” we can encourage networking and help others establish their own social enterprise ecosystems.  The people we met were vibrant with ideas and had so much passion; it was an inspiring and eye-opening experience to say the least!  After our peer learning group, we braked for lunch and spent the rest of the day networking and gathering more information for our project.  Overall, it opened our minds to more ideas and made us want to work harder to make sure that by the end of this experience, we leave an everlasting mark on the future DWE students to come.
DWE student Molly Golan prepares to present