Never Doubt that a Small Group Can Change the World

By April 16, 2015Blog

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Remarks by Managing Director Terry Nelidov at the 2014 Erb Institute Holiday Gathering

We were bringing all our thinking together under the pillar of “Sustainability Change Agents” – with an emphasis on systems thinking, including both social and environmental sustainability, and global perspective.

It was October and November that proved transformational for us, starting with the Erb Town Hall meeting, where students first asked the question that resonated with us for weeks afterwards …

“Is this enough?”

Is a change-agent approach within the current rules of the game enough to move from merely reducing unsustainability to promoting true sustainability? Or do we need to also be thinking about how to change those rules of the game – indeed changing not just individual companies but entire industries, business models, and eventually markets and economies – in order to achieve the deep sustainability that we all feel so passionate about?

This same question, “Is this enough?”, was echoed in the student focus group we had two weeks ago, with the encouragement to think bigger and bolder, given all the human, knowledge, and financial resources that the Erb Institute brings to the discussion.

So, we decided to step up to the challenge! We are keeping our first pillar squarely focused on getting things done for sustainability here and now – with today’s alumni, with today’s jobs in today’s companies. And we’re adding a second, more aspirational and decidedly more transformational pillar, challenging us to be constantly asking ourselves, “What’s next?” How are industries, business models, and marketplaces fundamentally transforming – down to the core business, social, and consumer values that drive them – in pursuit of a sustainable world? In other words, how is the very role of business in society being redefined?

This isn’t at all a new direction for Erb, but rather we see it as an intensification of the sustainability debate we’re already driving. We’re simply taking the discussion to the that still unanswered question, “What’s next?”

Thank you to the Erb community for challenging us all — as a community —  to think bigger and bolder. We’re staking out a tough assignment here, but we’ll design it deliberately with milestones and hopefully lots of successes to keep us motivated along the way.

I’d like to end with a quote – that famous quote – from Margaret Meade:

Margaret Meade: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

We think that this pursuit is worthy of the Erb Family name, and worthy of all that we are as the Erb Community.

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