The amazing race

Feeling at home behind the front desk of the Inciativa Joven office in Extremadura

My husband – in his  infinite wisdom – describes his greatest travel adventures as those undertaken with a) people and b) purpose. I am a great proponent of solo travel as a way to get to know yourself while exploring the world. That said, people truly make every experience. Traveling with people you love helps you reach new levels of understanding and closeness in your relationships. And of course, it is fabulous to travel for the sake of travel but it can be far more meaningful if you combine travel with an endeavour, milestone or event.

Jennifer and I posing for a photo on the Roman Bridge with Minister Carlos Javier Rodriguez Jimenez

Happily, my trip to Spain this past June included both: a) a dear friend, fearless leader and dream client – Jennifer; and b) the intention of raising the profile of TakingITGlobal, Sprout and Pearson Fellowship for Social Innovation at the Talloires Network Leaders Conference with a follow-up trip to Extremadura to meet our partners in Sprout en espanol. The outcome was much more than that.

As Jennifer shared in one of her updates to staff while we were away: “I feel like this trip could be a special episode of Amazing Race!” It was like that in every possible way. In the short week we were there, we employed an extraordinary brand of endurance, took calculated risks, encountered new obstacles and by the end, we’d hit the mother lode.

All smiles minutes before sharing our new Sprout Impact video with the team from Extremadura

Some key takeaways:

  • Despite going strong for on average 16 hours each day, if you really want to run, swim, do yoga, etc…, your body will make it happen.
  • It is possible  to say “no” to the unnecessary and “yes” to only the viable (and lucrative) opportunities. The key is using every strategic brain cell one possesses to know the difference.
  • The true learning that happens at conferences is not in concurrent sessions, it is in serendipitous conversation.
  • Only a highly skilled presenter can plan for and produce the exact desired response from her audience.
  • We all feed off of one another – good or bad. Thankfully, positive energy and wholesome priorities are contagious.
  • Ideas are a gateway to change. But real transformation of society comes from teaching and empowering young people to craft their own futures.  That requires imagination, skills and determination.
  • There is a mecca of creativity, innovation and enterprise. And it lives in Extremadura, Spain.
  • Most situations can be boiled down to basic power dynamics.  It is worth understanding your position in that dynamic and how to leverage it for your or your client’s benefit
  • Merging the old with the new is a useful metaphor for our evolution as social innovators. In Mérida, in particular there were many examples of how structures and buildings were constructed around or on top of existing ruins.  There can be as much value in the ideas and vision of the past as there are in the novelty of those that surface anew.

UNESCO World Heritage site - the Temple of Diana - in the city of Merida.

I have shared more about our experiences at the Talloires Network Leaders Conference here and what it means to build the engaged university. Also, for those who ♥ ideas, you can learn more about the Regional Ministry for Youth & Sport in Extremadura and our connection to this exemplary government via Sprout by visiting this link.

Leaving my mark


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