131 Bridgebuilders re-unite virtually

Updated: May 25

What a feeling to meet 131 bridgebuilders from around the world in your laptop! Due to corona travel restrictions, we decided to virtualise our Summit. On two days, we met online for 2,5 hours to re-connect, discuss and celebrate our impact and our Vision 2025. Read what happened and prepare yourself for the next Summit.

131 bridgebuilders actively participated in our first virtual Summit - what a great success!

Since 2012, our Summit has been taking place every other year in the Black Forest. As we are mostly a virtually operating organization, the Summit is a perfect occasion to meet up offline and live our values. Challenging workshops, joyful activities and a whole bunch of new friends are waiting for everyone. All family members are invited. In 2018, we welcomed 99 bridgebuilders from 25 countries.

This year, the Summit took place virtually due to the current travel restrictions. Despite the different time zones, 131 bridgebuilders from all 5 continents joined to

  • re-connect and see each other again

  • get an update on how our family is coping with the challenges due to corona

  • give feedback on our impact and our Vision 2025

  • celebrate our successes

131 participants from 5 continents attended. Each picture represents bridgebuilders from the respective country.

How do we cope with the challenges due to corona?

In our first session, our countries updated everyone on their key achievement and key challenge related to the current corona crisis. Many of them found creative and innovative solutions to deal with the current situation:

  • In Mongolia, our learning centers have made a big step forward with online teaching. As students had to stay home since February, the biggest challenge has been to shift course offeringsfrom offline to online. Thanks to the strong support by our bridgebuilders Scott, Inés and Linda, most of our social entrepreneurs now teach online.

  • In India, our social entrepreneur Kaylea faced the situation that many workers lost their job due to the lockdown. With her social enterprise PurePaani, she provided water purifiers and food to 300 vulnerable families around Bangalore. .

  • In Sri Lanka, our team was able to close the first round of Start Up Camps in which they found the social entrepreneur for our next program starting in October.

  • Our 9 Cambodian learning centers are facing financial challenges due to corona restrictions. Some have started online classes and have managed to partly fill the financial lack. Our learning center in Steung Sen had to close due to various difficulties. Tani also had to be closed temporarily.

  • In South Africa, farmers cannot sell their products anymore while many people suffer from lack of food. The Ubuntu project brings together both sides providing local people with food boxes composed by fresh products from local farmers.

  • In Malaysia, Linde and Julia from SameSkies continue to run their action learning program with refugees online.

  • Our Book Champions in the UK have collected over 20,000 books and are now waiting for the lockdown to end to continue sorting them for our learning centers. At Franconian International School, our book champions have celebrated BOOKBRIDGE’s 10th Anniversary with a huge homemade cake and are now waiting for the school to re-open to continue the sorting of books.

  • Our own action learning programs are running well after we virtualised 5 modules end of March. Due to the current uncertainty, we need to wait and see how and if we can start our programs in autumn as planned.

Reviewing our impact

Assessing our impact is key to our work. Participants split up in different breakout sessions to listen to the impact chain and an impact story by their favourite social entrepreneur. While inputs, activities and outputs can easily be measured with numbers, outcomes and impact in educational organization like ours is best told with stories.

Key results of our impact workshops

  • Community Heroes’ Impact with Matthias, Marisol and Augusto All three break out groups agreed that the impact chain is a great way to communicate our impact. They were impressed by the impact stories presented and would like to see those being spread more within our family and beyond.

  • Impact on professionals with Santiago Professional and personal impact goes hand in hand. Numbers are great but what is amazing is to see all these stories. The participants feedbacked that it is important to build a clear bridge between the experience in the program and the work environment. Stories on the little things which create impact in the work environment would help everyone to learn and to get motivated.

  • Workshop on money with Curdin Money allows us to create impact. Our diversified source of financing as well as the way how we recycle our investments in the countries are good models. Having to pay back the loan puts pressure on our social entrepreneurs. At the same time, they receive great support from our family members. The group suggests to follow up with corporates in the countries we are active in as well as to register as a charity in the UK. Sothika mentioned that the way how we deal with unused funds at time of business plan implementation limits his degrees of freedom. Curdin wants to follow up with him on that to understand it better.

  • Friends of BOOKBRIDGE with Nadia The Swiss association Friends of BOOKBRIDGE supports students at our learning centers with scholarships. The group discussed how the association could attract more members. One way could be to lower the membership fee. Another opportunity would be to support other type of social enterprises as well. What everyone can do is to like their Facebook Page.

  • Volunteers’ impact with Janene The group really appreciated the humanity, the diversity and the impact of the stories told. Impact is a marathon and not a sprint. To further develop our Fellowship Program, the focus should be on on-boarding, mentoring and making use of the network of volunteers around the world.

  • Country teams’ impact with Steffi By working with the impact chain, we understand better our value chain. The group recognized a lot of professionalism growing in our countries. The participants wished to see more diverse offerings at our learning centers, to empower the role of women and to offer online trainings.

  • Organizations’ impact with Eva Companies sending big cohorts to our program get much more return on our programs than organizations only sending a few people here and there. It would be beneficial for us to work with companies in which our culture is aligned with theirs. The participants suggested to create an alumni club in each organization and asked BOOKBRIDGE to keep alumni up to date on the tools and methods used in the program.


Our Vision 2025

The key topic of the second day of our virtual Summit was our Vision 2025. In our Vision 2020, we had put the learning center at the core of our work: we envisioned more diverse course offerings, tangible initiatives created by our alumni and we saw the learning center model transferred to other countries.

Five years later, the great news is that we magically hit our goals! By 2020, we imagined to have 780 professionals trained and 20 tangible initiatives started. By end of 2020, we will have 776 leaders trained and much more than 20 tangible initiatives started by our leaders. While we imagined BOOKBRIDGE to be active in 5 countries, we will be active in 11 countries by end of the year.

During our 10th anniversary celebrations last year, the BOOKBRIDGE Team and Board drafted our Vision 2025. In a bottom-up process, it has been shared and further developed with the support of many bridgebuilders. We put our action learning programs at the core of our work. We decided to focus on scaling up our programs to make them work in new countries and new sectors.

Our Vision 2025

In break out sessions, we invited our bridgebuilders to reflect on our Vision 2025. This is what came out:

  • How to best communicate our Vision 2025? with Monika The group feedbacked that the tree is a great way to visualize our Vision 2025. As the open programs are at the core of our work, we should highlight them more in the picture. One idea was to use the sun as a picture for our open programs and use the tree as something which grows with it.

  • How do we get from vision to reality? with Christian The group suggested to strengthen the capacities of our country teams to run local programs and to deepen the relationships with the companies we have been collaborating so far. What remains key is to keep the trust which goes along with keeping our family together.

  • How should we move to new countries? with Srini In each country, we need to understand the demand to adapt our programs. In bigger countries, we may need to split our programs by areas or sectors. In the current corona crisis, many programs are driven by the top. Alignment with the government is needed. An idea was to align with local scouting groups.

  • How to further develop our Startup Camps? with Sujitha The group discussed setting up a small expert team to fine-tune our curriculum. To create income with the Start Up Camps for our learning centers and our country organizations, the group suggested to include local sponsors and to run marketing along the paradigm "start now, pay later". To ensure having enough learning partners, the participants suggested to tap into the network of program alumni.

  • What should new business challenges look like? with Santiago Our programs should be designed around the capabilities of our social entrepreneurs, financial constraints of our investors and cultural limits. Climate change, female empowerment network, creating a supply chain of social enterprises, technology and food were areas around which the group brainstormed ideas for business challenges.

  • How can we empower program alumni to become change makers in their respective environments? with Viola Sharing our impact stories and empowering others to follow are the ideal way to motivate others to follow. What BOOKBRIDGE could support is to let alumnis know what other alumnis did.

  • What change would one million purpose-driven leaders make? with Curdin Participants realized that continuing on our current way will make it very difficult to reach one million purpose-driven leaders. The group imagined a friendly virus or snowball system which allows to scale our impact. Partnerships with governments and activities in heavily populated countries like India and China were ideas brainstormed.

With 131 participants and 2 days full of reunions, discussions and celebrations, our first virtual Summit was a big success. Participants especially enjoyed the break out sessions with our social entrepreneurs, the workshops and the inputs on our impact and our vision. The plenary sessions with check-in, check-out and celebrations also received positive ratings. However, their length should be reduced in time to give more time for break-outs. 89% feedbacked that they would like to see another virtual Summit. 11% said Maybe and no-one said No. This shows that we started something which is worthwhile to be continued and further developed. We will explore the options, integrate your feedback and come back with an offer.

A big thank you to all bridgebuilders who participated and contributed to this virtual Summit! We are proud to have you in our family!

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