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Who are the members?

Rahaf and I were catching up over falafel in Paris. It was August, 2012, and this was one of the only restaurants still open during the vacation month. We shared stories of international travel, updated each other on our wide-ranging projects, and conferred about the challenges of maintaining healthy relationships and close friendships in light of it all.

At one point, she smiled at me and said, “Do you know what I love about this group? It reminds me that we’re normal.”

Two and a half years later, the members of our community are as diverse as ever. We’re writing books, building companies, performing concerts, organizing festivals, reinventing industries, traveling the world, and more. Rather than present a collection of bios and hint at who we really are, here are some of my favorite shared qualities that bring us together as family:

Growth – We believe that anything is improvable through hard work. Life is an opportunity for learning.

Presence – We believe in showing up and truly listening to each other. 

Vulnerability – We believe in letting ourselves be seen. We let the professional guards down, and ask for help when we need it.

Abundance – We believe that life and relationships are a positive-sum game. We delight in helping each other succeed.

Curiosity – We love exploring new ideas and meeting new people, not purely for the sake of novelty but rather because it is meaningful.

Adventure – We all have our own version of the status quo that we have left behind. We cross borders and find home and community wherever we go.

We all are at different points in our lives. Some of us are undergoing a phase of expansion, when we seek inspiration and broaden our understanding of what is possible. Others are experiencing a phase of distinction, when we discover our voice and begin to make a name for ourselves in our chosen fields. Many members have already started to achieve a measure of distinction in their projects, and are seeking opportunities to deepen their influence in the community. (We’ll elaborate more on these phases of growth in a future post!)

We all have our own stories of shared adventures and life-alteringly meaningful moments with members of this community. Together, we get to celebrate being more than our polished bio of our professional life. We are friends. We are family.

We all have our own favorite qualities we seek, and reasons why we get to feel “normal” with each other.

So what are your favorite qualities of members?

Evan Samek

Bylaws working group

Helping Each Other Apply to Singularity University

This summer in Silicon Valley, the amazing GSP program by Singularity University will take place. It’s a ten-week program at the NASA Reseach Center in Palo Alto to learn about the capabilities of technology and how we can apply it to solve the world’s biggest challenges in areas such as healthcare, education and others. There’s 80 spots available and probably thousands of applicants. A couple of weeks ago, Google announced that they would pay the tuition fee for any admitted student. At $30,000 (US), I’m sure that this further majorly increased the number of applicants since it’s now only the application process that serves as the barrier to entry.

So how could I maximize my chances to get in amongst all these applications?

Singularity University has been very active across social media and because it has such a vast faculty, an enormous amount of information on it can be found on the Internet. A successful application then depends on your ability to efficiently boil it down to the most valuable pieces you can find online and communicating an engaging story that relates to these fields to the recruiting team at Singularity University. As no applicant can know everything, your application also likely benefits from other applicants or even program alumni reviewing your application.

So about 12 weeks before the deadline, I realized that this task was way too big for me to handle all by myself. There was so much information out there, I couldn’t possibly read and watch all of it myself in the time I had. I also realized that I could never catch every important detail since I’d definitely miss some websites. I needed to team up with others and access their knowledge. Inevitably, this meant sharing my own learnings and knowledge, but that’s something that you have to give in order to get.

How our individual members’ applications suddenly became a group effort

I posted on our Thousand Network Facebook group if anyone would be interested in such a collaboration. The response I got was mind blowing. Over 40 past GSP alumni as well as future applicants raised their hands and wanted to get involved. Suddenly, it was a goup effort. It took me a couple of days to put all my knowledge on paper. My goal was to curate a guide on everything around Singularity University. Using a simple Google doc containing my knowledge as a starting point, I invited our community to crowd collaborate on this guide. I also set up a Facebook group for alumni and applicants so that we could help each other out with any questions that would come up while filling out the application.

What did all of us applying members get out of it?

The results have been more than I could have asked for.

While not being perfect, the Thousand Network guide on Singularity University (access it here) now contains over ten pages of succinct information and resources around Singularity University collected by Thousand network members and will be continuously improved by the help of the global crowd.

The Facebook group really helped in removing a lot of uncertainties around any member’s application. By being able to exchange directly with GSP alumni (even if you’ve never met them), us applicants could ask questions on topics that we weren’t sure about. More importantly, we could ask them directly to people who often had answers (as opposed to guessing) and if they didn’t know they could point us to places where we would find the answers. Hence, I think it’s fair to say that it greatly increased the quality of all our members’ applications.

What did I personally get out of it?

I believe for any group project to work, there has to be an individual benefit as well. For me personally I feel like this little side project has helped me on three levels:

  • Firstly, it created a community within a community, making all of us applicants feel less alone and lost while applying to the GSP.
  • Secondly, it definitely opened me up to this new world of crowd sourcing, which before, I had witnessed a lot but never made use of myself. On a very practical level, it showed me the value of this approach and I’ll be sure to use it in many different projects in the future!
  • Lastly, I really think that this undertaking helped make my application that much better and so I truly hope I will be among the 80 students who make it to Singularity University this year!