It was daunting thinking about spending the better part of two days flying over to the British Virgin Islands. But at the same time, the anticipation of what awaited seemed to mollify any fears. For one reason or another - some lucky combination of good company and the promise of inspiration - meant that before we knew it, we had arrived.
And so it began.
An interesting mix of people from different backgrounds and cultures, with different experiences, gathered on this idyllic island to listen and share and discuss ways of being involved, of doing good, of doing ‘better’. When I sat and listened I couldn’t help but feel a sense of shared values, of gratitude and appreciation and a willingness to confront difficult issues and consider positive solutions directed at the core.
Jean, CEO from Virgin Unite got the ball rolling in her uniquely warm and informal way and then we were treated to hear Ben and Jerry talk about their humble beginnings in Vermont and how they set about changing the system they didn’t like – one ice cream at a time! Lisa Lake spoke of the work she is doing at the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, guiding young entrepreneurs. Paul van Zyl moved us all with an insight into life in apartheid South Africa and the work he did in establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and of his exciting new venture – Maiyet – a luxury brand empowering artisans from around the world. Ian Darling from Shark Island Productions gave us a taste of life as a film maker and the way he brings these many confronting and often left unspoken issues into the broader domain. Jochen Zeitz spoke about the pioneering work he has been leading with Puma and their environmental initiatives. Suzi Carp spoke of the power of collaboration and the incredible work that Jane Tewson and the Igniting Change team are doing. And then there was Bryan Stevenson…
I think it would be hard to write about the trip without describing the experience of listening to one of the most beautiful human beings I have ever met. Bryan rose to prominence through Ted Talks and is a human rights lawyer (amongst other things) who has been working on criminal justice in the US for some years. He spoke of identity and compassion and he spoke from the heart. I think Bryan embodies the very essence of what it means to be human – his love and care and humility and goodness radiate. We were all very blessed to meet him; indeed all of us are very lucky that there are people like him in this world.
So as I sit here writing and reflecting on the trip, on this leadership and entrepreneurship gathering, I feel an overriding sense of hope. It was such a positive experience. People, who despite a keen awareness of the difficulties in the world have such a positive way of looking at them and thinking of the best way to tackle them.
What sort of world do we want to see evolving and how can we act to create it? How can we use the power of business and markets to create meaningful and significant change? These are some of the things that Necker stirred for me.
To Richard and Joan for your generosity, to Jean, Virgin Unite and all the incredible Necker staff and to Jane and Suzi and Igniting Change, and to all the other Neckers – my sincerest, thank you.
Till next time,