Change Tank: One Weekend to Change the World
June 4, 2015
Five years ago I attended an Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) conference in Amsterdam. The room was filled with business owners like myself. The keynote speaker spoke to the many perils that plague the billion people on our planet who are living in poverty. And then he asked the room, “Who is going to solve these problems? Do you think governments are going to do it? Are the existing charities going to do it? Are religious groups going to do it?”
The uneasy answer that filled the room was no, they weren’t, or if they were it wasn’t happening fast enough. He then said something that struck me to my core, “Entrepreneurs you’re the ones who have to do it. Your minds are the kind of minds that can solve these big problems, they tackle big problems all the time. It’s your responsibility to turn that energy towards these billion people who so desperately need your help.”
When I got back to Calgary, I started a group called the Global Charity Organization. I pulled together some of the most creative minds and willing hearts I knew and tasked them with this problem. It was a hugely daunting ask, but collectively we rose to the occasion. It was from those meetings that The Change Tank was born. Most of you are familiar with the concept by now, but for those that aren’t it was essentially a weekend-long pitch-fest for an idea that would help the billion poorest people on our planet. The winner would receive 30k in funding.
We added some amazing members to our ranks from Acumen + Calgary, and also received tremendous support from U of C’s Hunter Centre, and I am happy to report that the weekend was a success beyond my expectations. We filled our roster with 49 participants. On Friday we heard 22 initial ideas, which became six ideas that teams were then formed around. Over the weekend the ideas were refined with the help of our incredible coaches, Sarosh Rivizi, Lori Stewart, Danielle Caruthers, Erin Poeta, Monique Gamache, and our very own Kevin Crowe. They were then pitched to a panel of judges, including myself, Dr. Bob Schulz, Gena Rotstien, and Stephanie Jackman. We also heard from two incredible guest speakers, Houston Peschl, and Suzanne West.
And most importantly we left the weekend with an incredible team of people, dedicated to an idea that I believe has the power to impact the billion most impoverished people on this planet. The winning idea belongs to Team Stoke. Right now millions of impoverished people die, mostly women and children, because they are subject to smoke inhalation from cooking pits. Team Stoke has a blueprint for creating a stove sourced from readily available parts that will eliminate this hazard but also has a by product of tremendous value, biochar. Biochar is not only an amazing fertilizer, significantly improving crop yields, it becomes carbon negative when mixed with soil, it can be used to purify water, as well as a base for creating soap. In short, this stove solves a myriad of problems, offers a myriad of benefits and I believe with truly make an impact on people’s lives.
I’m sharing this with you for a few reasons. In part because I think we can collectively take pride in the fact that The Change Tank is an offshoot our combined efforts here at Long View. If it weren’t for you, there would be no Long View, there would be no Change Tank and there would be no Team Stoke. And I also share this because the journey to get here has filled me with hope and optimism, and I want to impart that to all of you. Team Stoke will make a difference, but what is equally important is the mass of people that came out to try. Surely, if we continue to direct our efforts towards making the world a little bit better, others will do the same. And I believe in the core of my being that simply by continuing to try, we will.
Thank you for being a part of Change Tank, and again a tremendous thanks to everyone who helped make the Change Tank possible.