2012 Social Innovation Summit and high-impact entrepreneurs

SI Summit 2012

Last week, I was fortunate to represent Bain & Company at the 2012 Social Innovation Summit – a forum of individuals gathered to discuss the role that business and technological innovations can have in effecting positive social change. This year’s participants included such notables as Padma Lakshmi, Sal Khan, Barbara Bush, and former Bainie Adam Braun, Founder and Executive Director of Pencils Of Promise.

Many captivating speakers addressed the audience, but I felt the most thought-provoking individual was Daniel Epstein, founder of the Unreasonable Institute.

Daniel’s “lightening talk” was only 10 minutes long, but during that time he shared his vision for entrepreneurship and enterprise as platforms to address the world’s largest problems. Borrowing from George Bernard Shaw, Daniel explained that “the reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in adapting the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man [and woman].”

This vision led him to found The Unreasonable Institute, a startup accelerator in Boulder, CO that works exclusively with “High-Impact Entrepreneurs” from around the world. Daniel believes that entrepreneurs are uniquely suited to address the world’s largest challenges. He shared several examples of the types of programs that Unreasonable supports.

One of these is an effort by two MIT dropouts who believe they have developed what could be a non-invasive cure for human blindness. The system relies on a pair of glasses with embedded cameras and a pad that is attached to the palm of the individual’s hand. It maps the images captured by the glasses into impulses which are generated by the pad on the person’s hand. After about three weeks of learning, users are able to “see” through their hand. Daniel described trials of the technology where users have been able to read with the system.  Truly groundbreaking!

I was impressed by Daniel’s passion, approach to social innovation, and the initial results he is seeing.  His strong belief in entrepreneurship also resonates as it is exactly how Bain is working to address the global poverty crisis.  We share his belief that entrepreneurs can and will be able to effect major social change and we partner with leading global non-profits who support high-impact entrepreneurs to advance their efforts.  I was happy to learn that several of our partners are also directly connected to the Unreasonable Institute, and we expect this to have a multiplier effect on our combined efforts.

I returned to the office inspired by all of the advancements in social innovation, encouraged by the way that Bain is working to help unlock great potential, and with a clearer understanding of the key role played by high-impact entrepreneurs, aka “the unreasonable man.”

– Kyle, Senior Associate Consultant in San Francisco

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