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Sandbox 2012: Why 200 Trailblazers Gathered in Lisbon

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The Sandbox Global Summit kicked off this year's summit season for me. The Summit Series had their 500 person-strong Basecamp gig in Squaw Valley, which will be followed by Kairos Global Summit in New York. The Sandbox event was live for just 72 hours between the 20th and 22nd of January, but for many of us, it's been going on for much longer. Sandbox co-founder Antoine Verdon has spent most of the last six months building this event. I have been on Portuguese soil for five weeks prior the event; Alicia Sully, my colleague at What Took You So Long (WTYSL), was there for three weeks.

This year, the Sandbox Summit's working title was "Lisbox" -- a fusion word of Lisbon and Sandbox. Time stood still during these 72 hours of constant action. We were free of trouble and open for collaboration. But there were no over-the-top DJ performances or live bands like at last year's Summit at Sea, instead the whole gathering was crowd sourced from within the Sandbox network. Anarchy ruled in this open space. The sharing sessions were hierarchy-less in that anyone was invited to host one, and those that chose to, did so from how to dance the Merengue to the art of pouring a perfect Guinness. The session hosts -- all unpaid -- shared straight-up information based on their own experience of success and failure. It was an accelerated and practical learning curve experience for most participants. Someone summarized the whole thing as, "a major love fest."

Before the summit started, Nairobi-based Sandboxer Jonathan Kalan broke it down to the world in his HuffPo blog. He describes Sandboxers as, "geographically loose yet an extremely tight-knit group of individuals, held together by the fabric of social networking, constant couch surfing, and a slew of global networks."As Sandbox co-founder Fabian Pfortmuller beautifully articulates in Jonathan Olinger's Sandbox Transamerica video: The strongest bond one can have is your family.

"The world is going to change. Technology's going to change. Politics are going to change. But what's going to stay the same are relationships. It's going to allow us to make amazing things happen together."

The family he refers to is the Sandbox family and the emphasis at the summit was on building bonds between the 150+ Sandboxers that participated in this global gathering.

Sandbox is a global network of selected innovators under 30, a community of over 600 people in 48 countries and 23 hub cities. We have hubs everywhere from San Francisco to Shanghai; our latest expansion is the Cairo-hub. We all came to the summit because we believe in the collective power of Sandboxers. "If we didn't think we were going to change the world, we wouldn't be here."

I love to work together with Sandboxers to make shit happen. I find my fellow "boxers" online/offline/side ways and straight ahead. I would argue that most of us are knowmads -- I know I am. What's epic is that people help each other out without asking for anything back.

I once had a dream that we would build a big sandbox inside the event space, MUDE. I got blocked by one of the museum staff to materialize my dream. Anger infiltrated my body but I quickly converted that into my fallback plan -- let's build a Sandbox in the sand on the beach! We secured timber. All we needed was the following of a few to manifest this creation.

Inspired by the idea to build an actual Sandbox we launched an attack on the beach just across the square from MUDE. Thirty noble men and women with timber in their hands overran the nonexistent defense line of the beach. I put Joe Amoros Moya a Spanish Sandbox ambassador in charge of making the physical sand box. He quickly took charge and with the support of a local homeless person, without the ability to speak English or Portuguese, he turned the beach into a love-haven for collaborators.

An hour and a half later our bodies were sun-soaked and the physical sand box was erected in front of moving cameras and time-lapse go-pros. The Sandbox world will never forget Persian think-tanker Manoucher's inaugural speech marking the completion of our 3D sand box cube, or New York-based Sandbox ambassador Niamh's heroic workmanship and leadership to involve more females in the previously male-dominated building process. We will never be able to replicate the energy that we created on the beach.

During the Sandbox Summit, our currently stationary nomad photographer and surfer friend Antonio Gamito took 8,000 portraits of the 200 participants.

I compiled these photos, taken by Antonio Gamito, and made them into a movie:

Lisbox12: The Art of Faces from What Took You So Long? on Vimeo.

I chose the "Opposite Of Adults" theme song by Chiddy Bang because the lyrics capture the feeling that youth is a continuous journey: "Hey yo, I once was a kid, all I had was a dream."

On the final day of the summit, Sandboxers were asked to write down their take on life to be compiled into an playbook, a manifesto of sorts that will be available to the world in collaboration with Bloomberg Businessweek. Over the course of an hour or so, small groups of sleep-deprived Sandboxers gathered with blank sheets of paper to fulfill the request to draw and design the pages of the e-book capturing the philosophy that we, as Sandboxers, engage the world.

The summit is over and now I'm transitioning back to Kenya. I feel mixed emotions all around because my continuous travel and inability to stop moving makes it difficult to step away and reflect.

But even though the summit is over, it's really never over. So what is everyone doing right now? Follow the Twitter list of the participants! On Twitter you can use the hashtag #lisbox12. Check out Sandboxer Rahaf's totally amazing blog on the summit and the Barbara Streisand-inspired thoughts of Pakistani Sandboxer Kalsom!

So, what's next for Sandbox? Incubation, funding and growth! Part of the reason this will happen is that now that Sandbox's management is centered in Zurich (as opposed to being spread out as it was before). Here Sandbox's official way forward blog.

I'm in love. It happened in Sweden of all places (my first home, but one that I have not lived in for nine years) during Christmas. Inspired by falling for this woman I felt a desire to share it non-verbally through graffiti imprints on Sandboxers' arms. With the help of a thick black marker I wrote "LOVE" on the forearms of 10 people. Ten turned into 20, 30, 40 -- even in the middle of a Portuguese night club I was busy spreading the LOVE.

Day two of my quest and people come up to me requesting to get tagged. Day three people come up to me for refills because their love was fading away. Love will throw you off the camel and back up again. Don't give up on love. Embrace it. Let's embrace the unknown more often, never stop moving, and know that love will set you free.

This was my message.