A room full of dragons

Article reposted with permission from Abby Waldorf

Imagine walking onto a stage in a room full of 200+ people, in front of a panel of renowned experts, and pitching a solution that you and a group of 10 peers from around the world developed in four short days. And you speak English as a second or third language.

For four days, 50 young innovators worked on solutions to landscape challenges defined by five organizations as part of the Youth in Landscapes Initiative. On Sunday, they took the stage at the Global Landscapes Forum, the largest parallel event to the COP21 climate talks, and pitched their solutions to a panel of experts in a “Dragons Den” session. Without fail, they left the audience in high energy and spirit at the end of an intense weekend conference.

Youth pitch their innovations to the dragon's den.

Youth pitch their innovations to the dragon’s den.Photo Credit: Wen-Yu Weng

My heart was racing throughout the entire event. After each pitch, you could almost feel the teams holding their breaths as they waited for the dragons to respond.

I had a particularly vested interest, among the audience members around me, in the success of each pitch, as I had attempted to guide the teams earlier in the week on best practices of pitching. The pitchers were nervous, their teams were standing by their sides in support, and the dragons were spot on with many of their comments. But I was pretty sure that I wasn’t the only one in the audience who shared a bit of the nervousness of the other pitchers.

Mia Signs, Master of Ceremonies, opened the session with an invitation to the audience: “we have a room full of dragons”. Everyone in the room now had a role to play. The audience received cards on which they could write feedback for each group and were invited at the end of the session to discuss their comments.

In case you missed it, here’s a window into the event.

  • Enter the Dragons Den
  • Meet the five “dragons” (i.e., panelists):
  • Bernard Giraud, Senior Sustainability Advisor of Danone and co-founder of Livelihoods Fund
  • Steven Lawry, Director of governance research at the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
  • Kemi Seesink, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator of the Global Water Initiative
  • Tint Lwin Thaung, Executive Director of The Centre for People and Forests (RECOFT)
  • Catharine Watson, Head of program development, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
    In his opening remarks, Bernard Giraud, shared a humbling story of pitching from his early days with Danone. When he was invited to pitch a proposal to a group of senior executives, he recalled: “I was very excited, I brought what I considered as great ideas and a great proposal. But it was a total failure. My colleagues were puzzled with what I proposed.”

He left the pitchers with some parting words of advice before they began:

I realized that when you pitch to someone, you have to understand the culture and understand how your proposal has to fit in with what they can really implement.”

Read the full article on Thrive’s Thrive’s Website.