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
The following blog post is written by Meridian Social Innovation Fellow Rowinda Appelman
“Your time is just as valuable as mine.” John Hass – Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of Rosetta Stone – kept looking me straight in the eye after this statement. A small silence erupted, in which I processed these words. My time is just as valuable as any CEO’s time.
These eight words became the core of my 3.5 week journey through the United States of America for the inaugural Meridian Social Innovation Fellowship. It showed me the difference between two vast corporate landscapes divided by the Atlantic Ocean, and how we perceive youth and talent from opposite directions. Wherever I went in Washington and Detroit, doors opened. Not because of a company or family name, but because of my project and the open showcasing of a desire to learn.
It’s a very interesting experience for a European, how the option to pick up the phone and just call seems to start moving you places. My intense one-week local mentorship within the Rosetta Stone company proved this beyond any point imaginable. With Enterprise & Education Marketing Manager Sheerin Vesin by my side as my mentor, I went through an intense rollercoaster ride to find the answers needed for all the pressure points of my Social Innovation project focusing on language learning.
The crème de la crème was brought in to talk with me after all our combined efforts to reach out. Even if this meant that the person in question had to do this during a layover between flights. Watching the sunlight playfully jump over the shiny shell of her carry-on luggage, I listened to Elizabeth Brooke – Vice President of Education and Research at Lexia – explaining how to best help children learn languages. I will never forget the ending of the talk: “What you do, matters. And it will change lives if you do it well. Don’t screw it up – we all don’t have that luxury anymore in this day and age”.
There is not one person I spoke with who did not offer their help for the project in the end. Exactly for the reason mentioned by Ms. Brooke: our societies have a desperate need to evolve and grow, beyond differences in language capabilities, living standards, and happiness. Seeing how every layer of the US corporate and non-profit sector was willing to help, showed me how I can push for the same thing to happen in Europe. We sometimes jokingly refer to it as the American Dream – the desire to grow, and push forward – but looking at all the extended hands offered when I asked for it sincerely and passionately, I could see how true it still is, to this day. If you dream and act, things can happen. And I’m excited to see where this will take my project in Europe.