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April 19, 2018 | Guest post by Travis Sheridan
As we prepare to move to 3675 Market Street, the Science Center will strengthen and enhance its Quorum program by joining the Venture Café Network and offering Venture Café powered by Quorum programming every Thursday beginning this fall. On Monday, April 30 during Philly Tech Week, we’re giving the community a taste of what’s to come at a mini Venture Café with a focus on social change.
We asked Travis Sheridan, President of Venture Café Global Institute what to expect when the weekly Venture Café gathering comes to Philly.
President, Venture Cafe Global Institute
Venture Cafe is expanding to Philadelphia this fall and we are excited to join the thriving innovation community. For many people, the thought of holding a weekly, yes weekly, event aimed at engaging innovators could seem daunting or a bit ambitious. The truth is, innovators need this. More importantly, and at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, the world needs this. For Venture Cafe, innovation is a process to improve the human condition. The three driving forces behind Venture Cafe are broaden, include and connect.
Innovation reaches beyond apps and artificial intelligence. It is more than drug discovery and medical devices. Venture Cafe’s success is a byproduct of engaging sectors at the adjacencies and showing that collaborations between seemingly disconnected industries is where the real magic happens. Imagine an attorney and an acrobat sitting side-by-side and leading a discussion about risk. What will happen if a bioscientist can spend time talking to a filmmaker about the art of storytelling and finally learn to describe her life saving technology in non-petri dish language?
Innovation in different sectors improves the human condition in different ways. When innovation occurs in education, the improved human condition are better student learning outcomes. Innovation in government can lead to increased service to the community. Innovation in the social sector can result in the needs of the most fragile being met in more efficient and effective ways. And, yes, a truly commercial innovation can create wealth and prosperity. The human condition has broad needs, so innovation needs broad application.
Beyond the industrial sectors are the individual sectors. Who is participating in the innovation community? Venture Cafe believes that innovation is for everyone -- not just the entrepreneur or privileged. Being mindful of that fact that an invitation isn’t the same thing as access, Venture Cafe removes several of the barriers that historically have served as unnecessary gates. One of the best ways to truly model access, is by inviting different voices to serve as thought leaders during the weekly gathering. Leadership is key to real access. Each Thursday, Venture Cafe hosts between eight and twelve educational sessions as a way to exchange world-changing ideas. Those sessions are led by a diverse group of people every week -- from different sectors, background, and neighborhoods.
Inclusion is a requirement of sustainable and impactful innovation. Tomorrow’s challenges cannot be served by yesterday’s solutions. And yesterday’s solutions were often created by a homogenous population. From unintentional bias built into machine learning, to narrow-minded public policy, to cost-prohibitive healthcare solutions, to ridesharing programs that alienate entire zip codes, ensuring a wide swath of people are leading and making their voices heard will greatly improve the aforementioned issues.
In a hyper-digital world, it is still important to foster analog relationships. Venture Cafe is built on connecting people locally, regionally and globally. These connections can accelerate the innovation process and alleviate some of the floundering that occurs when people try to go it alone. By bringing 200 to 500 people together every week, with a shared belief that innovation really can improve the human condition, the environment is ripe for serendipitous collisions. The serendipity refers to the user experience and not the behind-the-scenes engineering required to create an environment where people can connect.
Connections are strongest when community is present. Therefore, words like “ecosystem” and “networking” are used sparingly. Those words do have a place in the world of innovation; however, both are also captured in the word “community.” Venture Cafe is building stronger and more inclusive innovation communities and inviting you to get connected.
During Philly Tech Week, come participate in Innovation for Social Change. There will be a social action panel discussion, breakout session on social impact investing, and office hours, an opportunity to connect to innovators interested in improving the human condition.