What happens when you bring together 100 change agents, social entrepreneurs, business leaders, intrapreneurs, academics, development sector representatives, and financiers for 3 days in a hotel in New York?
What you get is a lot of connections, a lot of conversation and a lot of conspiration in the most positive sense of the work on how to develop the way forward for bringing clean tech solutions to people in the developing countries.
Personally, what I take away from the Cornell Global Forum on the Great Convergence between Clean Tech and Base of the Pyramid is a lot of inspiration and good conversations ! Very few times in my life have I had the privilege of being in the company of so many visionary people from around the world with their hearts and minds in the right places. Every evening when retiring to my hotel room my head was buzzing with new inspirations, insights and ideas on how to incorporate the strengths of the private sector in delivering solutions to the social and environmental challenges in the world.
Imagine the conversation around the table between a guy who is a personal advisor to the president of Gyuana on how to develop a green strategy for the sustainable development of the country, another guy who is developing an airship that will do the trip across the Atlantic spending only 10% of the energy of an airplane and giving you fitness room and our own cabin on the 4 days journey, and yours truly anthropologist and business innovator, working on people centred innovation to bring sustainable water supply to rural communities in Kenya. You would have enjoyed being there, too!
Links and download
To give you a feeling of the Global Forum and not least of the final VIP talk with Al Gore, Stuart Hart and SC Johnson, check out this link with videos, photos and selected quotes: http://coyneclients.com/cornell/global_forum_smpr/
And for a brief summary of the outcomes of the different task groups and the key challenges and opportunities arising in this field, download a two pages document here: CORNELL GLOBAL FORUM OUTCOME
A Framework for The Way Forward
So with all those nice people and nice intentions, what is then the way forward? This is what the team from Cornell University is trying to define at the moment as the stewards of the Great Convergence. But beyond the gaze of the stewards are of course all the new connections made between the participants that will lead to new collaborations across continents. What I sensed at the Global Forum was the need for a gradual process of bringing these very different fields of Base of the Pyramid and Clean Tech together, and not least also connecting between continents, between social entrepreneurs and multinational companies, and between different domains of water, energy, health, and food to provide a coherent approach. And there is a need in the global field for some kind of organisational entity that can facilitate and enable these connections and collaborations.
At a very broad level, I see a process of different steps or levels:
– linking people, ideas and resources across sectors and continents. One of the big barriers to development and innovation is actually the missing links from needs to solutions.
– Every sector, discipline and country has its own language and its own culture. Engaging in collaboration across borders demands that the involved parties understand each other world views and ways of communicating.
– It’s all about people! Enabling social and personal networks amongst practitioners from different sectors and continents will be one of the key ingredients in the way ahead for a convergence between clean tech and BOP.
– Now we are ready to go to work! When connection, translation and relation is there, the potential for joint visions and collaboration that will transform the existing structures and develop new solutions that meet the complexity of the challenge and the needs on the ground.
This is just a bit of the many insights and reflections growing out of the Cornell Global Forum. But for sure, being part of the global community of BOP and Clean Tech practitioners and visionaries across the planet is now inspiring and enlightening my work on the ground in Kenyan communities where we are working towards developing sustainable solutions for safe water to low income communities. In this work, the importance of overcoming the missing links and connecting the local and the global spheres becomes very apparent and very tangible.