Photo by EWB / Raymar Yu

xChange 2017: Now It’s Your Turn!

“Dude, conference is over.”

You’ve laughed. You’ve cried. You’ve stayed up all night furiously debating ideas. You’ve had an eye-opening experience. You’ve scribbled notes of advice on how to make a difference from some of the most influential leaders in industry, government, academia and community. You’ve made friends for a lifetime. You’ve explored Edmonton and seen its famous bridge light up in orange for EWB. After three days of EWB energy for our over 500 delegates, it’s now time to go home.

So now what?

Well, it may be the end of conference, but it’s also a fresh beginning.

Take Mike Quinn, CEO of Zoona and an EWB alumni, as an example. After his first national conference in 2003, he was inspired to make a difference. That inspiration would pave the way for Mike to become a junior fellow in Ghana, choose a second placement in Zambia, and pursue management development and an MBA from the London School of Economics and Oxford, respectively. He has since started Zoona, a financial technology company based in Zambia, to facilitate monetary exchanges and banking. But the heart of Zoona lies in its mission to support local businesses, especially by empowering young women to grow from high school graduates to thriving entrepreneurs.

For Mike, it’s all about taking that first step. “Whatever the cause is, the most important thing is to start. It’s about going from being a bystander on the sidelines to actively working inside the problem,” he says. “It might take a whole lifetime, but it’s worth it to start.”

A Golden Opportunity

Though half a world away, Wiclif Odongo, Founder and CEO of Kito International, Founder of Ecosafi, and a Kumvana Fellow, came to the same realization. Motivated by his experience as a street youth in Nairobi, Kenya, Wiclif has dedicated his life to supporting young people from the street and slum communities by giving them the skills they need to be self-sufficient. Since 2010, Kito International has helped more than 250 youth cultivate business and life skills, and has connected at least 60 of them with employment.

Wiclif is seizing every opportunity to learn so his organizations can grow and help more youth. He calls the Kumvana program a “golden opportunity” and xChange “eye-opening.” He’s learned many practical lessons in business etiquette that he’s eager to bring back to Nairobi, but he’s reinvigorated by a new perspective on failure.

“I’ve learned not to fear failure. There is no innovation without failing,” he says. His organizations have felt stagnant lately and Wiclif feels that accepting failure is an important step. “I was looking at failure as a challenge, but by seeing failure for what it is can help us see what we can do differently.” He’s also learned to embrace the word “and” because it reminds him of what he can do more.

As Wiclif prepares to return to Nairobi with everything he’s learned, he also has parting advice for delegates just starting on this journey: “Do not be afraid to take small actions. Small steps are part of the solution.”

It’s your turn now. What will your first step be?

Be sure to check out the xChange 2017 recap, coming soon!

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