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There was a buzz in the air. To my right sat an urban mushroom farmer. To my left a marketer from a consumer packaged goods company. Around me were people from all walks of life. A mindfulness teacher. A mother of seven. A leader of a major organization dedicated to the conservation of tropical forests. An activist, an artist, a journalist, a techie. People representing corporations, government organizations, non-profits. I wondered what brought this eclectic group of people together in this spirit of joyful expectation.

It was the opening evening of the Sustainable Brands conference. We had just finished watching the documentary I Am. I was pondering the film’s two main questions “what is wrong with our world?” and “what can we do about it?” And I was filled with questions about the potential of humans to create positive change and how people’s energy can affect even the yoghurt in your cereal bowl.

A couple of thousand people had come together for four days to listen to and learn from each other, to ask tough questions, and to search collaboratively for paths forward to increase the positive impact that we all can have on humanity and all the living things that share our planet. I was struck by how this conference was truly a manifestation of that idea that we need to break through the walls of our individual organizations and partner with a diverse group of people in order to bring about the change needed to create a vibrant future for our planet.

So what was is that these people had in common? An awareness of the brokenness of our current system? Yes. Hope for a better future? Yes.  A humble realization that we have a way to go to fulfill our potential, both individually and organizationally. Yes. And, perhaps most importantly, a sense of joyful possibility at the chance to lead the change and inspire others to join.  There was an absence of the doom and gloom that has weighed down the conversation around sustainability over the years. The spirit of this conference was optimistic. “Share in a joyful way,” said Brian Welch, Author of Beautiful and Abundant. Because that sense of joy and possibility is contagious. Our job is to create opportunities for others to join in too. People want to do something meaningful. They want to be good citizens. They want to be empowered. They want to know how.

The stories we are telling are as important as the products and solutions we are creating. How can we help people to connect their work to a meaningful and inspiring vision? How can we help them see that more is possible, both for them individually as well as for us all collaboratively? How can we help them find their own inner hero and see how they can and are already contributing to helping the world run better and improve people’s lives?

I left the conference with a renewed sense of optimism. Even though we still have a long way to go to find solutions to many of the world’s challenges, I was inspired by the power of coming together to share positive energy and ideas. The conference served to remind me that solutions are possible and already today there is a mighty group of people dedicated to making the vision of a better world a reality. 

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