In the US Embassy in Madrid‘s May 2015 e-newsletter on entrepreneurship, Adriana Brito Ruiz, Youth Embassy Council Member, interviewed Meridian Social Innovation Fellows Javier and Cristina on their social innovation projects. The following are excerpts from these interviews, translated into English by Meridian Program Associate Eirene O’Connor. If you would like to read the interviews in their entirety, please email Eirene at firstname.lastname@example.org
On May 4, 2015, Meridian welcomed the inaugural cohort of the Meridian Social Innovation Fellowship to Washington, D.C. The eight Fellows – who hail from Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Spain – are global problem-solvers who bring together networks and resources to solve critical challenges facing their organizations, communities, and countries. Meridian has brought together this distinguished group to drive ground-breaking advancements in the fields of youth and women empowerment, cultural integration, entrepreneurship, science, technology, and education.
Telecommunications engineer, tech and innovation enthusiast. Through the Meridian International Center’s Social Innovation Fellowship, Javier’s goal is to strengthen JuntoSalimos, a project aimed at linking technology and entrepreneurship to create a positive impact on Spanish society.
How has the experience of the Meridian Fellowship been?
Awesome. My expectations were very high before starting the program, and now that the program is underway I’m coming to realize that all of my expectations are being exceeded by leaps and bounds. I feel very fortunate to have been chosen for the first cohort of this Fellowship and I hope this program extends for years to come. Meridian’s team consists of individuals of the greatest professionalism, and frankly, of incredible people. The group of Fellows is also fantastic. We are a diverse group, coming from different European countries, with varied but complementary backgrounds.
As part of the program, we are currently spending 3 weeks in the U.S., visiting different cities, establishing contacts, and creating new connections for our individual projects. The program is very intense, but tremendously useful.
How do you expect this experience will help you with your project JuntoSalimos?
JuntoSalimos is a project that seeks to break the existing paradigm of entrepreneurial support ecosystems. In truth, the program has already helped us a lot in three fundamental ways: (1) Making connections, (2) Validating existing hypotheses and creating new ones, (3) Obtaining feedback firsthand from high-profile experts.
At JuntoSalimos, we currently find ourselves in a stage in which we are trying to understand what drives interaction within our platform, and this program’s help has been invaluable.
Why do you think programs like this Fellowship are relevant today?
First of all, because this type of program allows you to connect globally with very high-profile individuals while attracting them to your project. They not only make it possible to test and measure yourself, but also to validate some of your ideas and get nearly-immediate feedback.
Second, because this type of program gives you visibility. New doors, which before might have been closed to you, begin to open up.
Third, because from a personal point of view, there is an intangible value in this sort of experience. The marvelous thing about this type of experience is the opportunity it gives you to meet new people and establish new relationships.
Marketing and Communications Consultant and Liaison of the San Francisco International Women Entrepreneurs Forum in Madrid. Through the Meridian Social Innovation Fellowship, Cristina seeks to empower women in tech and motivate teens and girls to enter the tech industry.
What did you take away from your experience [at the recent Gran Canaria Summit organized by San Francisco International Women Entrepreneurs Forum] ?
What stands out most to me is the passion that is shared when we begin new projects. The word that comes up 10,000 times at events like these is “passion.” It’s an entrepreneur’s gasoline…Another thing I’d like to highlight is women have so much value to bring to the economy. We are a source of talent that has not been taken advantage of 100%. Businesses should have more confidence in women’s talent.
Personally, what are some of the obstacles you’ve faced during your career in the tech world, and how have you confronted them?
The obstacles that I’ve faced have always helped me get straight to the point in this sector. Now that I have the American government’s support behind my goal to change the status quo in my country, I couldn’t ask for more. I’m very proud of what I have accomplished in my career and I am content with everything the tech world has given me. Someday I hope to create my own startup. But we also shouldn’t forget that mine is a job like any other, it has its idyllic and utopian parts, and it has difficult parts. You have to be a realist; “Magic Realism” is best left in literature. That being said, if I weigh all the good and bad elements, I would still stay in the tech world. In fact, that’s where governments around the world are investing. In Spain, technology can be a great source of job creation. There’s so much talent in our country. The next step is to foment and awaken that talent, and to understand that great things can happen in every town and city in Spain.