I spent the beginning part of this week sitting on a beanbag chair listening to branding experts, fundraising experts, community developers, innovators, and consultants share their knowledge to a room of hungry listeners. My co-worker and I were tucked away at the Serenbe Inn and Farmhouse at the Plywood Retreat for three days. We were presenting our strategic plan for the year and getting feedback, consulting, and support from a group of world changers. Here is a list of people I was privileged to learn from:

  1. Bob Goff: Where to begin with Bob Goff! Bob is the most interesting, creative, brilliant, and loving man I have ever met. Ever read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years? Donald Miller writes about him and his whimsical ways of living life—through the lens of hope and dreams fulfilled. Bob has a list of accreditations longer than my arm (including sharing leadership in a Washington law firm, serving as the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Uganda to the U.S., and teaching as an adjunct professor at Pepperdine Law School in Malibu) but chose to teach on doing what you were made to do over what you are able to do.
  2. Aaron Fortner: Community Developer and founder of Market + Main. He shared statistics about our country’s life cycle over time and how it portrays the ability for our projects to be sustainable. He talked about how 2012 is on the cusp of a “New American,” where what we do will dictate the next 80 years of American culture. He discussed how to make our projects sustainable throughout the next generation.
  3. Jeff Shinabarger: Founder of Plywood People. Jeff shared about his experience with social innovation and truths that any cause-oriented social entrepreneur should remember. One was, “You have to talk to the people whose problems you are solving. If they’re not feeling the impact of what you’re doing, you’re not solving the problem.” This was particularly a great reminder for me as I fight for these women.
  4. Blake Howard: Creative Director and Co-Founder of Matchstic, a Branding Firm. Blake talked about how people change, thusly, so should the methods we use to market to them. He talked about how in the late eighties and nineties, advertising was the way to convince Americans to buy. Now, the millennial generation is best persuaded by branding—positioning your brand so well in the public eye that you are creating advocates for your product or organization.
  5. Catherine Rohr: Founder of Defy Ventures, which is a program to promote entrepreneurship opportunities for prisoners. She talked about fundraising for non-profits. She talked about referrals, the importance of an ‘over-the-top’ thank you process, and being tenacious with your donors. I highly recommend you read her notes on Plywood’s blog.
  6. Charles Lee: Founder of Ideation Consultancy and Author of Good Idea. Now What? He talked about his new book and the strategies of putting great ideas into practice. He talked about the importance of writing down your processes and constantly finding new ways to improve them.

As you can see, it was a jammed pack three days. Not a minute went by without a priceless piece of advice to jot down or another innovator to connect with. I hope this post inspired you to pursue your projects and gave you some great resources to get started.