StartingBloc I: NOLA ’16

I want to take some space to explain what StartingBloc is, and what our experience at the New Orleans Institute this year was like. The experience will be outlined over the next couple of posts.

StartingBloc is a global Fellowship for social impact change makers. The StartingBloc Institute is a dynamic 5-day conference where Fellows learn from proven change-makers, are pushed to take bigger risks, and find life-long allies. Once the conference is over, you are part of the global fellowship which consists of 2,500 change makers passionate leaders  in 56 different countries who have each others’ backs. Learn more here!

Day 1

The program started at a multi-purpose shared working space called Landing Zone, in the Lower Garden District of New  Orleans.

Once we arrived we found a very diverse set of fellows with great energy. 13263743_986360201116_1847085239268465089_n

We were all split into groups of 6 or 7 with a mentor (a fellow who has completed the conference). This was Lea’s group: the Pandas.

We don’t know what magic they use, but the groups become like family, and they pair the mentors really well. This is Lea’s mentor Aude with our book, Millennial Sex Education – Aude is working on sex education too!

The first day focused on setting intentions, getting to know other fellows, and exploring methods of creating change through action, connection and creativity.

One of the speakers was the dynamic Scott Sherman. He is the executive director of the Transformative Action Institute, whose mission is to train the next generation of entrepreneurs, innovators and change makers for the 21st century.

With Scott we explored Transformative Action, how to generate deep conversation with anyone (learn more about the technique here), and cultivating creativity through improv.


I (Nastassja) participated in one of the dancing improv games.


Day 2

The second day was about sharing your vision of the world, including a pitch competition and a successful entrepreneur speaker.

Susie Lee is the CEO and co-founder of Siren, a dating app that unlocks real personality for first time-conversations. She is also a talented social sculptor.

Her talk, “Huh… that’s not how that was supposed to go” was about start up myths for the privileged few. She advocated for a greater range of success myths to reflect the diversity of the founders that make them. Her talk was AWESOME, funny, and really inspiring.


In the Ideas Marketplace all of the Fellows deliver a 1 minute pitch sharing our work, vision, talent, and/or asks. 1 minute REALLY isn’t long, so it was pretty stressful to prep.


Ultimately the ideas were all so different and brilliant, we all walked away feeling impressed and inspired. But… we could only vote for 3 ideas to move on to the next phase: Rapid Prototyping. If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry about it – neither did we! We just knew that it would mean having a bunch of the people in the room work on your idea with you- which is super exciting.


We pitched an idea for a user centered travel social network called Portals.


And …. drumroll…..

We were one of the 3 pitches chosen for rapid prototype scrimmage the next day!

Here we are with the other 2 winners and Ali who prepared us for the design thinking scrimmage we would be leading the next day…. >.<


I’ll tell you all about the scrimmage and the rest of the Institute in my next blog post –

so stay tuned!

One Comment Add yours

  1. That was so inspiring! What an incredible fellowship platform for social impact change makers.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s