By Bailey Pollard, North Carolina State University
The Sullivan Foundation’s Fall 2021 Ignite Retreat was easily one of the best experiences I have had. I met so many incredible people and learned so much about myself and the world around me in just a short span of three days. I started the retreat with two goals; to gain confidence in myself and my abilities, and to create a project based on some ideas I had going into the retreat. One saying that really stuck with me this weekend—one that I will be sure to implement every day in my life—is that “there is movement in stillness.” I am the type of person that always needs to be doing something, and if I’m not doing anything I start feeling like I’m falling behind.
Before the retreat, I never thought about what it means to be a social entrepreneur. I just knew I wanted to change the world some way, somehow. Social innovation isn’t just about providing new products or new services; it’s about changing the underlying beliefs and relationships that structure the world around us
Saturday was dedicated to exploring our goals through workshops. The first workshop I chose was on a problem track. The problem track is designed for people who have an idea of what they want to accomplish but do not know how to start it. The theme for this workshop was focused on unlocking creativity. In this workshop, I was able to formulate my ideas into something I can do in real life with the guidance of the coaches. The coaches are all successful social entrepreneurs. They were able to give so much insight and guidance through their experiences, which I learned so much from. I learned that if you want something to happen, you must do it in real life no matter how big or how small. This stuck with me because I am forever “researching” my ideas online, but never formally acting on them.
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The second workshop I chose was on the personal track. The personal track is designed to help you find your calling in life, to understand your skills and passions, and to build self-confidence. The theme for this workshop focused on overcoming fears. In the activity we did, we had a partner. One person had to talk for 20 minutes about something that was holding them back while the other person was not allowed to respond in any way. Most times in conversation we tend to add our own stories or insight, which can take away from someone else’s story. Or we are too busy thinking about how we can add to the conversation that we never truly are present in what the other person is sharing. This exercise allowed me to reflect on how I respond when conversing with others and even enjoy the “awkward” silences that encompass that.
Over the weekend, I challenged myself to start focusing on being directionally correct, which means focusing on moving in the right direction towards my goals. I definitely would say I gained confidence in myself and my abilities. I also am now in the process of developing my project with the help of the coaches.
But it wasn’t until we were on the way back home that I started to digest everything I learned. I went into the retreat with a closed mind on what I wanted to do. I left the retreat with a billion ideas and great enthusiasm to start a project I would have never even thought about. I also have the knowledge and resources now to make it happen!
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The thing I enjoyed the most from this retreat was being able to be vulnerable by sharing our deepest darkest worries, our dreams, and being our true selves. The coaches at the retreat provided eye-opening insight and motivation to allow us to take that step and go after our dreams. This experience challenged me, and I feel like I left as a new and improved person! I will take the skills I learned and use them for the rest of my life.
I wish that everyone could experience something as mind-blowing and amazing as the Sullivan Foundation Ignite Retreat.
Bailey Pollard is a Business Sustainability Collaborative (BSC) Associate at North Carolina State University. This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the NCSU website.