In the midst of isolation, Summit continues striving to create and maintain community. This week would have brought together 1,700 members—including the current, second class of Summit Fellows—for Summit at Sea, a three-day event that blends workshops, talks and experiences.
While dismayed that the event was canceled, the change of plans hasn’t slowed Peter Nyeko, a Uganda-based Summit Fellow and CEO of Mandulis Energy, a company that uses agricultural waste to produce clean energy. “When I first discovered Summit, I saw it as an opportunity to interact with others who care about impact and making a positive difference in the world,” Nyeko tells us.
Summit’s first class of fellows, a beta test of 40 aspiring, inspiring entrepreneurs dedicated to social good, spent 2018 networking with one another and the larger Summit community. “Summit is a powerful platform, but because of the price point, which sustains the business, access wasn’t available for the folks who were doing the most good in the world,” explains Gabe Quintela, the Fellows program director. “We decided to bridge that gap and use the Summit platform as an impact accelerator that can really push individual leaders and social enterprises forward.”
Gathering for the first time prior to the flagship conference in Los Angeles last November, the second, 81-person class of Fellows agreed to honor Summit’s ethos: make no small plans. They also received a mentor within the Summit community and spent two days leading up to the conference exchanging ideas.
Summit adheres to eight principles, including building friendships, going on a learning safari and embracing the unexpected. Some goals are broader than others, but Summit’s reputation for assembling a powerhouse of creators remains paramount. “There’s an obvious benefit of having Fellows in the mix,” Quintela says, “It gives the community an ideologic diversity and a sense of taking something with existing traction and growing it.”
In the six months since Summit LA, Nyeko won two grants—one from Canada and another from the UK—and has nearly digitized the entirety of his business. He’s partnering with another Fellow, Rahul Gayam, bringing Gayam’s electric vehicles from India to Africa. Nyeko is also building a trio of apps and sorting out funding to supply smartphones to farmers throughout Uganda so they can engage digitally in the formerly handshake-only business of buying and selling agricultural waste. “I feel like I’ve discovered my tribe,” Nyeko says.
Summit’s past events allowed Nepal-based Nasreen Sheikh to find her “soul family,” as she calls her class. Sheikh is the founder of Locwom, which promotes quality education, employment and health care by empowering women, educating children and building learning centers in underserved communities. A former sweatshop worker, Sheikh opened her second school earlier this year, “because of Summit,” she says. “They’re like, ‘Let’s
just do the work.’ There’s so much hope and courage and support, it’s actually shocking.”
We want to continue creating a clear support system
To accommodate the current circumstances, Summit has remained steadfast in its digital monthly meetings with the current class of Fellows, who represent 23 countries. Quintela and his team have also added a series of digital live masterclasses with the likes of Cicero’s Geoff Davis, Cleo Capital’s Sarah Kunst and former Twitter CEO Dick Costello. Unlike with fireside chats or keynotes, the Fellows have opportunities to receive direct advice from masterclass speakers, a significant differentiator between Summit’s Fellows program and other organizations. “We are industry-leading in that sense,” Quintela tells us. As far as the future is concerned, this class of Fellows graduates in September 2021. Until then, according to Quintela, “We want to continue creating a clear support system and make it as valuable to them as possible.”