A few weeks ago we had the honor to travel to Boston for the 10th annual Clinton Global Initiative University Conference. It was an incredible honor to be chosen to both attend this conference and present a poster during the expo session regarding our pilot this past summer in Haiti. Below are some thoughts by two of our members who attended.

Elizabeth Alonzi

The Clinton Global Initiative University offered a unique environment to spend your weekend: surround yourself with one thousand students from all over the world who have committed themselves to disrupting the status quo for good. It was a rare opportunity to connect with so many people with similar long terms goals of change and at a similar stage of life, but who were at all different stages of their work which spanned many different disciplines.

As a small start-up still not in operation, we figured we would be one of the less developed groups there. We hoped to learn a lot from the other business and nonprofits that were farther along – and we did learn from the group that had trained 6,000 officers in human trafficking response, from the group that had installed hundreds of heater units in the poorest regions of New York, from the group that provides financial advice to farmers in Niger via an app. But we also realized we were a lot further along than many other groups, who had come to CGI U with just an idea and a desire to make it happen. Just as we could learn a lot from other groups, we had a lot to share about fundraising strategies, forming a diverse team, and going from idea to pilot. It was refreshing to realize that we are not “behind” because we aren’t in full operation one year after the idea first came, fighting some of the imposter syndrome that snuck along with us to such a high profile conference. Vetiver Solutions is in the right place as we move into our post-pilot phase, and we’re excited to see what more we can do by the next CGI U.

Jesse Abelson

It was an incredible honor for us to be selected to attend this conference. CGI U brought together 1,200 students from over 80 countries together, all of whom are working on projects to make the world a better place. CGI U builds on the model of the Clinton Global Initiative and was launched in 2007 as a way to engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world. As new social entrepreneurs, we were incredibly interested in attending this conference and gaining as much knowledge as possible from successful individuals who were once in our shoes. Another reason we wanted to attend CGI U was for the networking possibilities as well as possible partnership possibilities with other organizations. It was an incredible opportunity for us to present our Commitment to Action, hear about other similar commitments, and share ideas and experiences.

There were so many meaningful takeaways from attending CGI U. If I had to sum it up, my most meaningful takeaway is that there are some incredible and inspiring individuals working tirelessly to make the world a better place. As college students we are often told we are “the leaders of tomorrow” but CGI U showed me that we can also be the leaders of today. Even though most of the projects weren’t similar to ours, we were all working towards a single goal of making the world a better place for ourselves and the next generation. I would like to give a special thank you to Acara, the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota, and the College of Science and Engineering for helping us fund our venture and travels.