Goldman Sachs CEO plays Judge for Brooklyn girls at SuitUp’s (2019 Fellow) recent Business Competition.

2019 Fellow Lauren Reilly, founder SuitUp, holds periodic business competitions with real world brands, real corporate volunteers, and real office space.

SuitUp provides educational competitions that connect corporations with schools in low-income communities to increase student career awareness and marketable skills. These business competitions use real world brands, real corporate volunteers, and real office space. 3-6 teams of ~10 students experience solving a realistic corporate challenge, such as designing a new product for Nike or creating a new phone case for Apple. 80% of students want to major with finance after the competition.

In this competition, Suitup partnered with Goldman Sachs. The girls prepared a 5-min marketing pitch and were judged by none other than the CEO of Goldman Sachs.

Click here to read more.

Announcing our 2020 Cohort!

Congratulations to our 2020 Cohort of Gratitude Fellows!

Fellow Name Organization
Elekwachi Chimezie Lekwas
African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect Nigerian Chapter
Thinh Nguyen Better Life Vietnam
Dr. Selina Hasan Clinic5 (School Health Initiative)
Joseph Osuigwe Devatop Centre for Africa Development
Gideon A. Asaah Educate a Child in Africa
Gina Womack Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children
Lindsay McClain Opiyo Generations For Peace
Blessing Adaobi Onyejike-Ananaba Girl Child Art Foundation
Katherine Hermans Global Changemakers
Monica Bennett I Protect Me
Samyak Jain Involve Learning Solutions
Soraya Fouladi Jara Worldwide
Yessica Flores Kantaya
Michael Abolarinwa Sunbola Lagos Food Bank
Nick Monzi Learn Fresh (NBA Math Hoops)
Dhirendra Pratap Singh Milaan Foundation
DONIA EMILLY Music Life Skills And Destitution Alleviation (M-LISADA)
Oluwaferanmi Omitoyin Panacea Project
Susan Osterhoff Project Commotion
Elsa DSilva Red Dot Foundation
Elnaz Sarraf ROYBI Inc
Duane Wilson San Francisco Achievers
Manasi Mehan Saturday Art Class
Fatma Said Kauga Shule Direct
Manoj Kumar Swain Society for Children (SOCH)
vicki abadesco! Soul Shoppe
Dr. Yared Alemu TQIntelligence
Elaine Keuper Tripura Foundation
Satish Manchikanti, Ajit Sivaram U&I
Kat Thorne The Commonwealth Education Trust

Message From Our Founder, Randy Haykin

In the spirit of the holiday season, I thought I’d share a bit about an intriguing book that a friend and Gratitude Ambassador recently introduced me to, called Second Mountain (a book by David Brooks). I loved the book and the metaphor that we all start out on our “first mountain” but at some point begin to travel up a “second mountain” in life – one that brings us more joy and satisfaction.  

The first mountain, according to Brooks, is about oneself and about filling the ego. On our first mountain, our upbringing and school teach us to obtain the things we want in life:  a job, money, possessions, and stability for our family. This first mountain is primarily “ego” focused and all about “me”. Some of use have scaled this mountain early in life and are now on a different journey. Some of us leave this mountain quite early in life.

Typically a shift from first mountain to second mountain is brought about by a change in job (boredom, unchallenging),  life (e.g. children leave home) or even something traumatic (e.g a narrow escape from death or the loss of a loved one).

The “second mountain” is more about “us” or “we”.  It’s about finding something that we want to contribute to and finding joy in giving our most valuable assets and gifts to a larger cause.  David Brooks suggests four potential commitments that define a life of meaning and purpose: to a spouse and family, to a vocation, to a philosophy or faith, and to a community. 

Second Mountain thinking resonates well with the mission and people surrounding The Gratitude Network.   In some ways, all of us that are part of the Gratitude Network (whether a Coach, Fellow, Expert Advisor, Team Member or Ambassador) are climbing “the second mountain”– whether we are later in our careers or early on—at least as far as our work around Gratitude is concerned. 

Minhaj Chowdhury, the founder of DrinkWell and a long time Gratitude Fellow, chose his second mountain in life at the ripe old age of 18, when his grandfather in Bangladesh became ill from water poisoning and passed away. Minhaj went on to study at John’s Hopkins, where he corralled numerous professors and scientists to aid him in creating a unique resin which extracts toxins from groundwater supply… he patented the technology, brought it to Bangladesh and India, where his systems are in use today impacting the lives of millions of children.

Holliday Goodreau, and her daughter, Olivia, founded the LivLyme Foundation, (Gratitude 2019 Fellow) which promotes research and patient support for those with Lyme disease.  In addition to providing financial assistance to families of children suffering from Lyme disease, the LivLyme Foundation funds studies for Lyme and tick-borne diseases research. The idea for Livelyme Foundation, which is certainly a “second mountain” effort for the mother-daughter team was inspired by Olivia’s personal struggles, at an early age, with Lyme disease.

Gratitude Fellows like Minhaj, Olivia, and Holliday truly inspire our team, because they are all “mountaineers” with a strong sense of purpose.  Many of these entrepreneurs have even managed to amass a loyal following at the “base camp” of their mountain! All of them are scaling their second or third mountain.

So…what’s your purpose…and which mountain are you presently climbing?

“If I Have to Attend ONE More Unproductive Meeting . . . .”

In the last newsletter, I wrote to you about a productivity killer called email, which is a wonderful tool when it’s not being abused left, right, and center. This time I’m going to continue along the same path with something that affects people in every industry I face: meetings that drain away our lives without contributing much value. The Atlassian study I mentioned last time found that in the U.S. alone, organizations waste $34 billion a year on unproductive meetings. That’s a staggering figure! It also explains why so many of us feel like we must take the laptop home every evening, in order to do the work we couldn’t get to during the day while we were running from one inefficient meeting to the next. It’s a problem I frequently help my clients solve, but the solutions (while very doable) require a shift in corporate culture. People must be willing to change and stop saying “this is the way we’ve always done it.”

So, what changes will transform meetings from snooze fests to high-gain encounters? Try some or all of these:

  • Eliminate standing meetings. Back in my NCR days, all of the business unit’s managers and team leads met every Monday afternoon for a three-hour time slot. We carried lots of action items, but the great majority of the time most attendees would say, “Was that mine? Huh. Well, give me two more weeks on it.” Meanwhile, what was happening with the staff all afternoon while they didn’t have access to any of us? We have to assume that some individuals might have, oh, taken advantage of the situation.
  • Establish an expected outcome for each meeting schedule, such as determining a solution to a problem or creating a plan for an upcoming project. That outcome then dictates your attendee list; rather than “all hands, all the time,” we might have more effective meetings if just the people knowledgeable about the situation and empowered to act on it were present. And if you don’t get invited to every meeting running, offer up praise! You just got that hour of your life back!
  • Meetings are not for one-way communication; we have group email and other tools for that. Instead, every person present should have an active role to play. Remember how much fun those undergraduate courses were with a lecture hall full of two hundred students and one dull professor droning on while we took notes, hoping to pass the exams? Let’s not recreate that experience down through the years.
  • Reward the good behavior of punctuality by starting on time. I encounter different attitudes about punctuality in my travels around the world. For example, I taught project management to a group of women in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the first 15 minutes of every day were spent in taking off the abaya and niqab and chattering to one another about their evening and their children. Could I adjust my timing by 15 minutes? Yes. When they had that opportunity and were now ready to start, they were very engaged and respectful, and didn’t allow any further delays. Contrast that respectful use of time with a meeting in which many attendees have made the effort to arrive on time, only to be told that “we’re waiting for a quorum” or “we’re waiting for So-and-so” . . . so their good behavior is punished, and the bad behavior of tardiness is rewarded. Doesn’t feel so good to those sitting there. 
  • Stick to an agenda. Sometimes the facilitator doesn’t know how to prevent an attendee from taking the meeting hostage around another topic altogether. Those of you who have attended meetings I facilitate know that I don’t allow this; I want everyone engaged and participating, but that may mean I have to help someone find their “off” button if they are talking too much, or if what they are saying isn’t to the purpose.  

As you coach people around you to re-think their willingness to fill up workdays with meetings, remember to breathe deeply, exhale in gratitude, and give yourself affirmations every day for the productivity killers you are eliminating. 

Thanks for reading.

Vicki Daughtry

Director of Coaching and Learning

Expert Advisor Spotlight: Vishal Gandhi

We are happy to be profiling one of our newer and more active Expert Advisors, Vishal Gandhi. Most recently, he joined our October Gratitude Peer Call and led a presentation on Measuring Success for our Fellows. In that talk, we covered multiple ways to approach viewing the success of a social impact organization by looking at how the solution impacts the lives of the beneficiaries served.

Vishal’s experience includes private and public sectors across multiple locations in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Mr. Gandhi’s other professional stints include social sector and international development consulting, investment banking, commodities research, and government and public policy. Vishal’s other areas of expertise include negotiation, sales and marketing, and strategy.

We are very grateful that Vishal continues to enjoy his role as an Expert Advisor for the Gratitude Network. He looks forward to engaging with more Fellows in 2020 to help them tackle challenges and expand their impact.

Coach Spotlight: Wilbur Herrington

By Vicki Daughtry

This month’s spotlight is on Wilbur Herrington, who is coaching for Gratitude for the first time this year and right off the bat, he took on two fellows! Both of his 2019 fellows started with similar issues around capacity; he is coaching them on not taking on more than they should, on improved delegation, and trusting other people. Sound familiar? In addition, Wilbur coaches his fellows on concentrating on better work/life balance. In sharing his most memorable experience as a coach, Wilbur says that it’s difficult to quantify assisting someone in seeing their presenting issue in a different light, addressing their concern, and partnering with them to discover a more complete and/or preferred way to show up in their life. He gives an example of one engagement in which his client’s presenting issue was wanting to be more effective in meetings. Wilbur was able to help her find both her voice and the personal power she previously would not accept.

Wilbur’s passion about coaching comes from a lifelong curiosity about people’s stories and how these stories manifest in their interaction with their world. Coaching for Wilbur is a symbiotic relationship. He takes their trust and the gift of their stories very seriously as he attempts to be of service. Wilbur finds that the work he does with clients also contributes to his own professional development and growth as a person, including learning from both successes and setbacks.

When asked about his outside interests, Wilbur shared that during the last year he has been working with incarcerated and recently released men through the Jericho Circle organization. Wilbur helps these men develop their emotional intelligence, and use tools
to come to terms with their inner struggles and the walls that separate them from their loved ones, communities and themselves. Finally, although it doesn’t sound like he allows himself much free time, Wilbur’s hobbies include diverse musical interests, gardening and baking; he finds all three relaxing, and they enable him to share his results with friends.

I extend my gratitude for your work, Wilbur!

African Edutainment Company Ubongo Wins Next Billion EdTech Prize

Former Gratitude Network Fellow Ubongo, a Tanzanian-based company which creates fun, localized and multi-platform educational media that reaches millions of African families through television and the webs, has won the Next Billion Edtech Prize, an award launched by The Varkey Foundation to recognize innovative technology that can have an impact on education in low income and emerging world countries.

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Gratitude Award Winners Announced for 2014

The Gratitude Network is excited to present its 2014 Gratitude Award winners:  GoodWorld Solutions (Oakland, CA), The Springboard Collaborative (Philadephia, PA), DrinkWell (Mumbai, India)  and Jail Education Solutions (Chicago, IL).

Jail Education Solutions – improves inmate outcomes by incentivizing educational and vocational progress through tablet-based curriculum in correctional facilities.  Jail Education was the winner of our “Audience Choice” (by popular vote)  at SOCAP14.

Goodworld Solutions – is our winner in category of Community Development, provides the first platform (“LaborLink”) to leverage the disruptive power of mobile to give voice to the global workforce and deliver real-time data to companies like Cisco and Patagonia to align sourcing practices with worker needs.

SpringBoard Collaborative – our 2014 winner in category of Education, addresses the reading achievement gap with programs and tools for coaching teachers, training family members, and incentivizing learning such that our scholars have the requisite skills to access life opportunities.

DrinkWell – Transforms the arsenic and fluoride water crisis affecting over 200 million people across rural India and Bangladesh into an entrepreneurial opportunity by blending proprietary filtration technology with a franchise business model. They are our winner in the category of Health.

Gratitude Award winners were chosen from the Nine Finalist companies who each presented on stage at The SOCAP14 event on September 5, 2014 – details can be found on this page.  Their presentations to the SOCAP14 audience on September 5th can be found at this link.  Our nine Finalists were narrowed down by a panel of experts from semi-finalists (who were covered in this article which appeared in YourMarkOnTheWorld, a blog by Forbes writer, Devin Thorpe).

This was the 2nd year The Gratitude Awards were held and our first year in partnership with SOCAP.  More information about all our portfolio companies can be found on this page.