*** Disclosure: I am a Global Ambassador of Sandbox***
“Don’t be afraid to use your knuckles.” This is the advice given to me by DJ Saul, who is teaching a small group of us how to throw a proper punch. DJ, when not playing Mr. Miyagi to our Karate Kid is the VP of New Ventures at iStrategy Labs and one of our DC Ambassadors. He’s volunteered to share his knowledge about some of the basics of self defence for one of our afternoon sessions.
I’m in Lisbon, Portugal for the first ever Sandbox Global Summit. Sandbox is a global network of selected innovators under 30, a community of over 600 people in 48 countries and 23 hub cities, including Cairo, New York, Nairobi, Singapore, Mexico City, Bangalore, and San Francisco.
Our members include innovators such as Cynthia Hellen from New York, founder of GIRLS WHO ROCK, a benefit concert fundraising for girls’ education worldwide while mentoring local volunteers to be leaders;Sebastian Lindstrom from Nairobi, who travelled 20 African countries to produce a documentary on young leaders with his What Took You So Long Foundation; and Marita Cheng from Sydney, recently announced as the Young Australian of the Year, founder of Robogals Global, who is using the art of building robots to get more girls excited about the engineering discipline, discussed their experiences, stories and key learnings from diverse fields.
Held at MUDE (the design museum), 200 Boxers and various mentors gathered to share ideas, wisdom, and laughter for one jam-packed, whirlwind of a weekend. The goal of this gathering was to foster meaningful relationships within a community that is driven to create a positive impact in the world.
Peer to Peer Learning: We’re in this together
The vibe is laid back, fun, and inspiring. There are no speakers here, instead Sandboxers host peer-to-peer sessions covering a wide variety of subjects:
- «On Stealing Ideas» by Mattan Griffel, CEO of a NYC-based digital agency
- «How to have the luck of the Irish and pour the perfect pint of Guinness» by William McQuillan, Founder and CEO of Osmoda.com
- «Social enterprise future moulded by Asia» by Kalsoom Lakhani, Founder of Invest2Innovate, and Achyutha Sharma, Director of Sulochana Development Trust.
Friendships First: What do you need? How can I help?
What set this weekend apart was the unwavering sense of giving and support, coupled with the desire to help each other overcome challenges. “What do you need? How can I help?” were two of the most often repeated questions I heard throughout the weekend. Boxers are genuinely invested in helping each other succeed.
It doesn’t feel like a network, it feels like a family, an online community of kindred spirits, punctuated by real life meetings. Prior to meeting in person, I had only exchanged a few emails with John Egan (Dublin Ambassador, Founder Archipelago), yet we slipped effortlessly into hour long conversations as though we’d known each other for years. I quickly discovered that I shared an identical sense of humor to our Amsterdam ambassador Tim Rutten and was laughing non-stop for three whole days.
Somehow, I had found myself in the middle of a global network with some of the most caring, intelligent, inspiring people I have ever met. Tara (Port-du-Prince), Niamh (New York), Kalsoom (the magical land of Pakistan), Nico (Zurich), Fabian (New York), Antoine (Berlin), Steve (New York), John R (Wagadu), Toby (Amsterdam), Will (London), Kasper (Copenhagen), Gamal (Cairo) have become an important part of my digital tribe, essential anchors of support, friendship and humor that I can count on as I navigate the perils and pitfalls of following an unconventional life path.
In fact, I had the opportunity to catch up with one of my closest friends Robyn Scott (Author, Founder of OneLeap.to, and another friendship I have Sandbox to thank for) who echoed my sentiments. “It’s rare to find a gathering of people that embody a sense of family who are all brilliant and have your best interests at heart.”
If this all sounds a little sentimental it’s is because, to be honest, I was caught completely off guard. I’ve never bonded with so many people at once before or shared such strong connections right off the bat.
I will be following up this post with a more analytic perspective of technology’s impact on the the creation and maintenance of these types of networks and what it means for relationship building.
For now, I’m just looking at my calendar, already eagerly anticipating the next time we can all be together again.