Alumni Voices, Impact House

Alumni Voices – Aaron Densham

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Aaron_GSIH_Solo

2 days, 4 time zones, 5 flights, 6 airports and more than 27 hours in the air. That was the journey I would have had to undertake if I was going to participate in Penn’s first Global Social Impact House (GSIH).

I was working with Indigenous youth in a remote town in Northern Australia when I discovered the Social Entrepreneurship course on Coursera. I’d been in the process of dreaming up a new education organisation but felt I lacked some necessary skills and tools to help me build it. I needed a road map to get me to where I wanted to go and the Coursera Course in Social Entrepreneurship seemed like a great place to start. And it certainly was.

The course helped me begin to translate my vision into an achievable project. One thing led to another and no more than two months later I was very fortunate to be invited to be a fellow at GSIH. I remember receiving the acceptance email and that dizzy feeling of excitement, nervousness and shock, “WHAT adventure have you managed to get yourself into now Aaron?” But I was never going to miss this one. Something in the tone of the emails, the energy of the website and the fact that GSIH wasn’t pitched as a standard conference in an sterile white-walled convention centre but rather an immersive group experience at a sustainable and eclectic eco-retreat, had me hooked.

So, I was bound for Puerto Rico where I was to meet 24 fellows and a handful of coaches that made GSIH – and I’m not exaggerating – one of the greatest weeks of my life.

Now, I know it’s a big claim; “one of the greatest weeks of my life”. But there are some simple and timeless ingredients in life that make people happy and I felt these ingredients were fundamental to the magic that was created for fellows at GSIH.

1. Deep connection with others

I walked away from my week in Puerto Rico with new friends, colleagues, partners and most importantly the echoes of deep and real conversations with authentic inspiring people. I’ve been in close contact with fellows from my GSIH community ever since, both personally and professionally.

2. Meaning & engagement

From the moment we arrived until the moment we left we were engaged in workshops, conversations and an atmosphere of meaning and purpose. Inspired by our own passions and the passions of everyone around us, our ventures, ideas and energy, we were a part of something significant and greater than ourselves. Principally, making the world a better place.

3. Play, memories & laughter

Let the good times roll! We laughed, smiled and danced our way through the week. We just had such a great time hanging out, letting loose and playing hard!

All in all, living for a week in a community of connection, meaning and light-hearted fun was what made GSIH so special to me, and all the fellows. I grew and learnt a tremendous amount and for that I am so very grateful.

However, it would be foolish of me not to mention the long-term practical benefits I gained from my enriching week at GSIH. First and foremost, it helped me acquire the tools that helped shave months off an otherwise steep learning curve in kick starting my venture. Workshops focused on design thinking, articulating vision and pitching were of particular help. The opportunity to have one-on-one coaching with already established entrepreneurs was incredibly valuable in helping me tackle individualised challenges associated with my venture.

In addition, the connections and networks I made have continued to be a source of support and inspiration to me. Since leaving GSIH last year, I am so grateful to have received countless hours of incredible advice and assistance from other fellows, in particular helping me with marketing and design (areas I had previously had very limited experience in).

It would have been almost impossible to return to Australia after such an experience and not be inspired and motivated to keep building my venture. With my education partner, we got working on creating our educational organisation and within two months we had the Bloom Collective up and running with a few of our first projects locked in.

The experience I received at GSIH was both invaluable and life changing. Since then, I’ve wanted to give back and be a part of the team that gave this experience to me. I’ll be attending the 2nd GSIH but this time as a part of the organising team! Saddle up, it’s going to be a wild ride: rainforests, energetic entrepreneurs, creative workshops, heaps of giggles, inspiring coaches, daily yoga, grappling, learning, growing, exploring and more….

I couldn’t be more pumped for GSIH 2 #locationremoteAustralia #yourturntoflyfar 😉

Aaron Densham is the co-founder of Bloom Collective, a team of educators that seeks to provide young people with the tools and platform to be their best selves. He is also an experience designer and coach for the 2nd annual GSIH in Costa Rica this January.