Writer Esha Chhabra
Photography Menelik Simpson
Sandbox lives in a horizontal world.
Here the lines cross in a web-like manner, allowing paths to criss-cross, giving rise to companies, initiatives, and partnerships that are interconnected and overlapping. Sandbox is nothing but a representation of the modern world: messy, chaotic, and lateral. And their aim, as Co-Founder Christian Busch says, is to build a “family of extraordinary friends” who go beyond a social network, becoming more of a community that’s closely linked to each other’s success and growth.
Sandbox is illustrative of a growing trend of impact organizations that aspire to connect young, brash, and wildly creative do-gooders with each other. Each impact organization, be it Sandbox, Starting Bloc, or Impact organisations, has a different blueprint but the ultimate goal is the same: incubating ‘generation Why.’ And incubating their ideas.
Sandboxer Kosta Grammatis, CEO and founder of ahumanright.org, is an ace scientist who works with MIT Media Labs. But his real passion is in defining the Internet as a human right and extending it to communities that have been adversely affected by the digital divide. Passionate, inventive, and immensely driven, Grammatis says he finds solace in the Sandbox community, where everyone is just as imaginative and ambitious as him. “Within Sandbox, I don’t feel crazy and alone, as somehow everyone is a dreamer and a doer at once,” he says.
Sandbox reaches out to the under 30 crowd, a burgeoning group of young people who are fed up with the inequalities in the current economic and political systems. This is a group that doesn’t want to wait till 50 to do philanthropy. Rather, they want their job to be impacting now, transforming society as they age, not once they hit the pinnacle of their adult lives.
Christian Busch, Co-Founder at Sandbox, describes it as an “enlightened circle of needs” that young people are fishing for in their professional pursuits. All of these “needs” should sync up together to create the ideal existence for their early years in the workplace. “These needs include: emotional needs, esteem needs, material needs, safety needs, and perhaps, most importantly, self-actualization. It’s not meant to be a pie sliced evenly in five wedges. But a blending of these needs constitutes Generation Why” Christian says in his TED talk at Goodenough College in London.
The focus of these impact organizations, like Sandbox, is to not only lead the way in a generational change, but also fundamental changes in the private sector, pushing for a triple bottom line that is not led by profit but co-exists with social impact. Basically, ‘generation Why’ will help restructure businesses to get away from just for-profit ventures.
For Busch, the most exciting of these business challenges is in assisting the BoP (Base-of-the-Pyramid) revolution. How can companies create products and services that meet the needs, desires, and preferences of the poorest market? Dr. Yunus refers to these as social businesses, where the drive is not just profit but also impact.
Busch says the challenge lies in making the BoP not just customers, but also producers so that they can be “part of the journey” in a more “inclusive” economy. To do this, Sandbox has partnered with the London School of Economics and Political Science, or the LSE, where Busch also teaches. The LSE Innovation Co-Creation Lab is a hub for researchers, practitioners, and students, bringing them together in another lateral setting to innovate business models. Partnered with non-profits and institutions in Kenya, India, and South Africa, the team works on finding sustainable solutions.
Busch explains further: “In the end, product and service innovations are fancy, but what really matters in my opinion is the question on how to build sustainable business models that include a deeper understanding about (longer term-) outcomes rather than (short-term) outputs.”
To create change in business, Sandbox has recently partnered with Bloomberg Businessweek to give its members greater visibility on a global platform. Businessweek gave six of these young, aspiring social entrepreneurs an opportunity to attend the Sandbox Global Summit in Lisbon earlier this year and present their ideas.
Niamh Hughes, a Sandbox Ambassador from New York who attended the three-day Lisbon Summit, says the Bloomberg Businessweek partnership brings the focus down to smaller enterprises. “Traditional media talks about everybody on Fortune 500 or Fortune 100. But it’s rare to hear about the struggles and nuances of being a new small business. And that’s what people need to know about.”
Kelly Calvin, one of the participants of the Summit, says that there’s discrimination even among young entrepreneurs. “People don’t take young entrepreneurs seriously. And I think that’s changing thanks to the success you’re seeing. But it’s either you make 20 million dollars by the time you’re 25 or I’m not paying attention to you.” It is this credibility that Kelly feels the BusinessWeek partnership brings to young entrepreneurs who are finally getting their due.
For the complete article, please go to Emerging Students Magazine, a new UK-based publication focused on innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship.