Fellowship for the Ultimate Un-Conference

06/02/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

One of the great frustrations of working in the field of international development and social entrepreneurship is that there are too few opportunities for outstanding young people living in developing countries to access professional networks or unique educational opportunities.

ThinkImpact works primarily with locals in developing communities and only occasionally have we been able to support Africans to come to the United States to advance their work.

This year, The Cordes Foundation is teaming up with Opportunity Collaboration, the ultimate "un-conference" for social entrepreneurship, to do something completely remarkable: provide 50 fellowships to students worldwide to attend the five day conference with leaders in the social enterprise arena.

Applications are due April 15 and more information is available at

Ron Cordes explains that the "goal for the Cordes Fellowships is to gather together 50 of the best and brightest emerging leaders in the social enterprise movement -- and give them an opportunity to network and learn from each other as well as from the unique group of global leaders in the poverty alleviation field that the Collaboration attracts."

Of the 50 Cordes Fellows, 30 will come from non-OECD countries. Think about this for a second. Mr. Cordes, the benefactor behind this initiative, is inviting the world of social entrepreneurs with limited resources to instantly access the leading minds in the entire social enterprise sector. Each social entrepreneur is heading their own program, looking for game changing solutions to many of the world's gravest challenges.

This is part of a deeply-held belief that when outstanding young leaders learn from each other, anything is possible. As Mr. Cordes noted, "We're looking to create transformational opportunities for these young entrepreneurs to take away ideas and connections to really move their ventures forward and expand their impact as changemakers in their communities."

I spoke with Allison DeLauer, Director of the Cordes Fellowship Program about the opportunity. Here is an excerpt from our conversation:

What is the goal of the Cordes Fellowship?
To provide opportunities for emerging social entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders to participate as Delegates in the Opportunity Collaboration who for financial reasons are unable to attend.

What do you believe Cordes Fellows can offer Opportunity Collaboration?
What is critical for OppColl to be successful is to have a range of voices participating in the conversation and offering fresh perspectives on potential solutions to alleviate global poverty. We have to think across silos. It is key that we gather inter-generational, international professionals across various disciplines to ensure the conversation stays fresh. The fellowship program makes sure that folks who would thrive and contribute to the retreat, but can't afford to come, still have a chance to participate. Fellows will offer exactly what the other delegates offer -- and that is enthusiasm, vision, innovation and community support for each other efforts.

What do you believe Opportunity Collaboration can offer Cordes Fellows?
The retreat offers a seasoned community of change-makers to share ideas and hatch collaborative efforts. For some fellows, they might secure funding; others might score a strategic partner for their orgs. Other fellows might come to a deeper understanding of the issues related to their venture. There's as much potential for insight and take-aways as there are's exciting. In addition -- we offer a certificate of completion from University of the Pacific's Center for Social Entrepreneurship for fellows that attend a special curriculum. This fellows-track seeks to address what challenges fellows identify, but we imagine, the track will include sessions on fundraising/marketing and work life balance, and other administrative capacity trainings that the fellows identify as necessary for their success.

Applications are due April 15. Don't miss this opportunity!