by Neelam Pol – SE Entrepreneur, SE Outreach Accelerator 2015

“Believe you can and you are halfway there.”
– Teddy Roosevelt

This rings true for each of the eight social entrepreneurs in the SE Outreach Accelerator this year. And to propel us forward in our journeys towards the social impact we aspire for, SE Forum is providing us the much required nitrous boost through the 8 week accelerator program.

The last four weeks have been a flurry of activities – exposure visits, pitching sessions, workshops, capacity building sessions and conferences. While the program has been demanding and rigorous, it has given me an opportunity to step back from the day-to-day operations of Khel Planet and reflect on the yearlong work. The past week too was no different.

The 4th week started with Karin Sharma introducing us to intercultural communication and helping us chisel down our definition of culture. Some thought provoking questions were: Does culture restrain us or support us? Is culture about norms or is it mostly about art and history? Or is culture a name we give to beliefs we can’t explain? This discussion has led me to reflect on my own work of teaching life skills, which often involves behavior and mindset change – ‘Am I mindful about what behaviors and attitudes we might leave unchallenged under the garb of culture?’.

An all-male panel at the Women Investing in Women Summit in Stockholm

An all-male panel at the Women Investing in Women Summit in Stockholm

Then at the day long Women Investing in Women conference hosted at Nasdaq, we heard influential women and men (#heforshe) deliberate on how to push the needle on investing in women effectively. As an entrepreneur myself, it was valuable for me to think about – ‘what kind of ecosystem will enable women entrepreneurs to build organizations that excite and inspire trust of investors?’ Will it include more mentorship or more business skills acquisition or more women networks or positive discrimination policies? What will it take to push the needle from the current 2.7% to an aspirational 50% women led startups attracting investment?

And at last, we hit the mid program celebration evening with a speed mentoring session. Speed mentoring was intense and fun and a very first experience of its kind for all of us. This gave us an opportunity to get to know each other’s mentors and leverage their individual expertise. For me, this process of learning from the work of others yet again drove home the fact that, as social entrepreneurs it is our responsibility to ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’ to maximize the impact we wish to create in the world.

Pasta without ketchup, anyone?

Pasta without ketchup, anyone?

This mentally stimulating week finally culminated into a gastronomic stimulation with a meal of authentic Italian pasta that Flaviano cooked for us. Being an Italian himself, he cringes every time anyone mentions ‘pizza / pasta and ketchup’ in the same breath. This time, however, we all gladly acknowledged that if pasta tasted this good every time we eat it, then we wouldn’t reach for the bottle of ketchup, ever!

At the end of the first four weeks, I have started to assimilate and connect the dots on the many inputs and connections that have come my way so far through this program. By the end of the program in the next four weeks, I am optimistic about chalking up an effective and holistic plan for Khel Planet for the next year.