Reflections on the i-Genius World Summit

It's been a week since the i-Genius World Summit for Social Entrepreneurs ran its course, and amazingly enough I've already been in touch with half the people I met there. I think that pretty much sums up how great it was to be at an event with people you actually want to get contact info from!

The summit itself was organised superbly, especially considering it was put together by just two people. Jo, Julie... take a bow! The Pearl Island Resort was beyond what you'd expect from a 5 Star place. The rooms blew our minds. Mine was basically two huge connected rooms with two balconies, a walk in closet, a massive open shower, and a study with a huge bath in it! The Resort spans a huge acreage and is an exercise in detailed design using the original tin mine as inspiration. Three swimming pools, including an adult one with a bar in it. Tennis courts. Bars. Snooker room. Long stretch of beach with a beautiful flat calm sea. And food you would not believe; from the breakfasts with everything you could dream of, to the dinners with lobster and crab and king prawns and meat, and, and, and...!

Amazingly the conference lived up to standard set by the location too. The format alternated between talks and workshops. Attendees included some really big names but I'm not going to focus on them, because actually they were not the ones that made the event at all. The inspiring ones were the unknowns that made the journey and got involved and shared themselves and their experience. From the three who set it all up - Tommy Hutchinson, the founder of i-Genius who led from the front and deserves much kudos for realising his vision, and Jo Matthews and Julie Whitaker who put it all together; to all the others that you're going to hear more about over the next couple of weeks. Off the top of my head - Adam, Ahmed, Barry, Ben H, Cliff, Dave M, Dave K, Dev, Grace, Mike, Greg, Martin, Hiikmah, Lotis, Jo, Luke, Mark, Sara, Olivier, Morten, The KaosPilots, Meriem, Ioannis, Olly, Sheetal, Parag, Ronald, Mounir, Tim... too many to list here!

i-Genius Summit

The third day ended with an investors den session where 3 of us (Anna, Lucian and me) were given the opportunity to pitch to a panel of investors - Matt Williams from Making Waves, Isabel Maxwell of Robert Maxwell fame, and Sheetal Mehta who set up some VC stuff at Microsoft and now runs Innovative Social Ventures Ltd. 7 minute pitch followed by 20 minutes of questions from the panel in front of the entire summit audience! Have to admit this was all a bit stressful for me because it was the first time I was pitching my vision and it really wasn't perfectly defined with no revenue or cost models or any of the concrete stuff that VCs usually want to know. I wasn't even sure it was even happening right until I got there and hadn't had time to do much before hand. With all the fun and games during the day it meant that I ended up writing the presentation between midnight and half 3 in the morning during the summit period, along with missing most of the workshop sessions to get it all together.

Amazingly enough the pitch went really well. One of the areas I struggled with in the QA session was describing examples of how the site could be used. I completely drew a blank like sometimes happens, but afterwards so many people came up with ways of how they could see our vision being put to good use. Thanks guys. Will be in touch to explore more!

Also judging from some of the questions and suggestions offered, two of the investors didn't quite to get what I was talking about - I think due to the difficulties of relating futuristic digital visions to previous offline experience with the volunteering sector, but pretty much the whole audience did, which was absolutely fantastic. Everyone fed back ideas and thumbs up and encouragement. Cliff Prior who runs the UnLtd Foundation came up and offered me an assessment for a Level 1 grant to help us get started, which left me really touched because I hadn't even asked for money. I really wasn't ready for all the love! I walked away encouraged and inspired and more determined to make this work so watch this space because I want you to be involved too!

In between the sessions, there was laughter and pool sessions and drinking and great food. People split off and combined back again, making the whole thing feel much more like a holiday in the sun, than a conference of any sort. The final day ended with an overview of the future of i-Genius and a chance for people to share their thoughts on the event. You couldn't help but feel moved by the passion and feeling and collaboration amongst so many bright, interesting people; all steeped in the humanity of trying to find sustainable ways of making a positive difference for others less well off, locally and globally. All I can say to end is that if you can make the time, attend the next one!!

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