Naif Al-MutawaWhat drives social entrepreneurs to make a difference in the world? Wednesday’s plenary panel moderated by Belle Puri, award-winning journalist of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), posed this question to panelists Hammad Bassam Hammad, cofounder and president of Inspire Dreams; Kristin Hayden, founder and executive director of OneWorld Now!; and Jessica Lax, social entrepreneur in residence at Causeway WorkCentre and cofounder of the Otesha Project.

When asked what inspired the panelists to start their individual ventures, each had their own personal “aha moments” but all agreed they had first-hand experience while travelling abroad with a particular social crisis and each were compelled to come up with a solution and an actionable plan to solve the problem. Jessica Lax explained her decision to start the Otesha Project after visiting Kenya: "It wasn’t even a conscious decision but an emotional response--it was something I had to do."

Panelists discussed some of the challenges they faced in putting their organizations together, including funding, developing benchmarks to measure success, and shifting mindsets that global competence is a crucial skill necessary to be an effective leader in today’s world. All the panelists agreed public school systems could do more to foster global competence by teaching more than one language, providing high school credit for study abroad, and granting credit to students who want to take a gap year.

Panelists' tips included:

  1. Dream big but also be realistic about your goals.
  2. Be patient and learn to be flexible.
  3. Build a dream team or develop partnerships with people or groups that have a similar vision.
  4. Your work is important; make it personal. Remember the reason you wanted to become an international educator and share that story.
  5. Don't focus on the resistance. Keep developing your vision.
  6. Analyze your efforts and change tactics if necessary.

What inspired you to become an international educator? Share your story with us.