Day One – Igniting Change on Necker

Chris Anderson speaks on Day 1

A few months ago I met with Virgin’s Global Head of Brand and a remarkable woman called Jane Tewson from Igniting Change (you may not know her by name – but I’m sure you know Comic Relief/Red Nose Day in the UK – well she founded that). We had a great meeting and shared our dream of tackling youth redundancy and unemployment, something that we at Talent take seriously and are the pointy end of an exciting initiative to address this, that we will launch later in the year.

Several weeks later I was privileged to receive an invitation to an Igniting Change/Virgin Unite Leadership Gathering hosted by Sir Richard Branson at Necker Island in the Caribbean. The purpose of these gatherings is to discover ideas about how we can revolutionise the way business, government and the social sector work together – driving business as a force for good. The event includes an amazing array of brilliant people who have all impacted the world of social change.

After an extended journey we finally arrived by boat to Necker Island – which is without a doubt one of the most beautiful settings you could imagine. Following an evening of introductions we had our first full day yesterday and what an incredible day it was – full of inspirational speeches by the most exceptional social-change pioneers.

First up we had Jane Tewson, who gave us a heartfelt account of her life where she has achieved so much based simply on the premise that you must listen to everyone and ensure you judge the person and not their label.

This was followed by the amazing CEO of Virgin Unite, Jean Oelwang, who gave a thought provoking talk about capitalism with kindness.  Jean explained that the motives and objectives of companies and shareholders must be much more focused on social change and to take responsibility for the many issues facing the planet.

Jean is the CEO of Virgin Unite, the entrepreneurial foundation of the Virgin Group. Over the last 10 years, Jean has worked to create new approaches to social and environmental issues, such as the Branson Centres of Entrepreneurship (a global platform to support budding entrepreneurs).  She has also helped incubate a number of global leadership initiatives such as The Elders, the Carbon War Room and The B Team. Her energy and tenacity to make positive change are shining examples of smooth disruption in action.

She is a true inspiration, her insights regarding capitalism and kindness will resonate with many trying to make change within the system.

Then Chris Anderson, owner and curator of TED, told us the story of the TED talks, and future possibilities. Chris talked about the need to take risk in terms of putting things that you conventionally might find financially valuable and then making them available to the whole world. This is what he did to transform TED to such great effect.

Chris Anderson is a living legend and we hung on every word as he explained about the future of the TED talks. The TED talks are probably the most influential thought exchange program on the planet with the aim of positive change across a wide variety of usually non commercial areas.

Some famous TED speakers include Bono, J. J. Abrams, Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, and Stephen Hawking.  Stay tuned for more updates from Chris and the very exciting future for TED.

Finally we wrapped up the day with a Q& A session with Sir Richard Branson talking to Chris Anderson about how business is now based on a different rationale.

During this session Richard explained that he no longer sees himself as a business man anymore, and that all his ventures need to be about working for the common good and addressing social issues. He also talked of looking to regionalise The Elders concept in so that it could focus on local issues in areas such as South America and Africa.

More to come, but I’m getting ready for Day Two with these incredible entrepreneurs who are making the world a better place.