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!
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
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 contectualized and in lots of different ways.
I think at community colleges, your student 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
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