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Desh Deshpande Delivers, as Promised, in Luncheon Address

Posted By Jeanne Yocum, Monday, October 14, 2013

The lunch session began with a video with NACCE’s 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Desh Deshpande. "The best way to solve problems in this world is to make everybody entrepreneurs,” says Desh in the film. One of the people interviewed said of Desh, "He’s like Yoda!"

Listen to Desh's comments here.

NACCE President and CEO presented Desh with the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award. Here are highlights of Desh’s comments upon accepting his award:

  • I have been part of MIT for about 15 years and I got my Ph.D. at a university so I know the university world. But I know less about the community college world, so I’m going to talk about what needs to get done and then maybe you can figure out how to get there.
  • Over the last 40 years the world changed because of innovation. Ideas go around very rapidly and create change. So in this exhilarating world of innovation if we just look at the next 10 years, we will see more change than in the last 50 years. And that presents opportunities for entrepreneurs.
  • In the U.S. every year about 500K businesses get started. In the last 15 years on average they have hired about 4 million people. If we want the economy to thrive we have to come up with more jobs from these businesses. So we have to find ways to speed them up so they grow faster and hire more.
  • A good goal to have for community colleges is to say that you should have at least 10% of your new graduates start new things. They on average hire 10 people so it’s a community of people that are part of the innovation economy. So how do we get there? Let me give you two examples. MIT on one side; they have a lot of resources. They have an endowment of $12 billion and they think it’s too small. They start roughly about 250 companies a year. But then let me take you for a minute to the other part of the world; about eight years after we had success with the institute we start at MIT we said let’s see what we can do in India. The schools in India are really broken. People typically work very hard but there’s not active learning; it’s passive.
  • So we opened the Social Innovation Sandbox in India. We decided to go directly to the students; asked them to work in teams of four and pick a problem in society and solve it. So now we have 1000 students in the program working on 250 problems. In India there are lots of problems but people typically walked around and didn’t notice the problems. But with this program students began to notice the problems. And the problems start looking like opportunities for these people. When the students get focused on the problem, no matter how big or small, when they find a way to unlock the problem it’s a very empowering experience.
  • When you’re an entrepreneur you always feel that tomorrow will be better than today. Doesn’t matter what the reality is; it’s just a great way to live!
  • Why not look at the whole society and embrace the whole society and look at the problems as an experiential learning opportunity for the students. It’s true that there are certain things that only MIT and Stanford can do. But every big innovation for it to really have an impact globally, it has to be contextualized and in lots of different ways.
  • I think at community colleges, your students and your faculty know what’s really best for the community and they can find ways to contectualize a lot of the innovation that is occurring.
  • What’s predictable is the fact that things will change. But it isn’t obvious what those changes are. You could have predicted when cell phones came along that they would evolve from the suitcase size to the iPhone, but you couldn’t predict what companies in this would win and which would fail.
  • Start with a network of people who are likeminded and really want to do this. Embrace the people in the community and let them talk to your students; people want to associate themselves with educational institutions. You have huge convening power.
  • You will need patience. Things always are harder and take longer than you think. But the good news on the other end is that once it takes off it always goes faster than you think.
  • Each one of you should treat yourself as an entrepreneur and say what am I trying to do here. It’s all about having the mindset to start the journey without having the complete roadmap.
  • Conferences like this help you separate the things that are known from what you don’t know.
  • There are certain things you can never figure out until you do them.
  • I think it’s going to be very exciting over the next 10 years. The changes are going to be led by entrepreneurs and it’s going to be global.

Tags:  Desh Deshpande  NACCE  NACCE2013 

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