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Interview: Cecily Sommers on PUSH 2008 The Fertile Delta

Posted on Jun 5th, 2008
Written by Lee Odden
In this article

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    Push 2008

    Innovation, creative problem solving and passionate interest in the subject matter are a big part of successful internet and social marketing – the topics of prime interest to readers of Online Marketing Blog. Those same characteristics apply to organizations and individuals working to make strategic business and marketing changes for the future.

    In particular, these values are reflected in the upcoming PUSH 2008 conference in Minneapolis June 15-17. In the very busy run up to the conference, PUSH founder Cecily Sommers took the time to answer a few questions about PUSH and The Fertile Delta event.

    Cecily Sommers

    First, what is your background? How did you come to start PUSH and what are your goals for the upcoming event?

    My work as a brand strategist told me that to be strategic, an organization has to have a clear sense of purpose and a long, wide view of the future. This is much easier said than done, especially in the midst of demands on businesses that have intensified by increased competition and the fast pace of change. I started the PUSH conference (named for a commitment to look at and be what’s pushing the future in new directions) to provide a time-out to get perspective, renew purpose, and to cultivate what I now refer to as “change literacy.”

    PUSH is described as an experience first and a conference second, focusing on conversation, interaction and ideas which is a perspective very much in alignment with principles of social media. What synergies do you see between real world an online social networking?

    I also refer to PUSH as a “zone of discovery,” where new ways of thinking and seeing come from an intentional mix of sources and disciplines. Discoveries are like sparks, whether from “firsts” (i.e. first exposure), putting known quantities together in new ways, or from a panoramic view of how things/people/ideas are related. Social media supports that kind of interaction too – where unexpected sparks of conversation lead to something/someone you’d never have found otherwise. Real-time layering of social media – like Twitter – brings more input in from more places, making it a very rich medium for discovery. Of course you have to do a lot of editing…

    Can you share a few examples of emerging opportunities and business models that fit with the theme of this year’s PUSH Institute event: “The Fertile Delta”?

    So much of the work represented at PUSH demonstrates this focus beautifully, that it’s hard to know where to begin or end. A partial list includes

    • Chandran Nair, Director, Global Institute for Tomorrow in Beijing, who is focused on sustainable solutions for Asia
    • Nate Garvis, VP Government Affairs, Target, who understands that smart solutions for an increasing number of social issues are best met through private-public partnerships
    • Antoine Bigirimana, partner, Thousand Hills Venture Fund, has created the Kigali Center for Entrepreneurship in Rwanda and is working with the government there to make Rwanda the most connected country in Africa
    • Cameron Sinclair, Director, Architecture for Humanity, has a completely open source model for international design talent to work with communities in crisis to build homes, schools, health centers, etc.
    • Van Jones, Executive Director, Ella Baker Center, creating a Green Corps to generate training and jobs to serve a green economy while alleviating unemployment and poverty in urban centers.
    • LS9, a biotechnology company that has engineered the production of petroleum from biofuels

    Other Fertile Delta efforts will take longer to see ROI, but are still so smart, such as GE’s investment in developing health care centers, workers, technology and Six Sigma processes in Ghana; AMD’s commitment to see 50% of the world connected by 2051; the OLPC and Intel’s Notebook projects that are on the way to making computing affordable for all, and many more…

    What are some of the more promising shifts you’re seeing with business innovation as a result of technology and online information sharing?

    Business models will evolve and create more overlap between public and private sectors, putting increased emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Entrepreneurship. And in markets, personal fabrication technologies, or 3-D printing, will affect every industry from health care to food to retail and energy.

    Who attends PUSH?

    PUSH Attendees include Directors, Managers, and Vice Presidents of Marketing, Consumer Insights, Product Development, Business Development, Store Design, Strategy and Innovation, Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Creative Services, Brand Management, Account Services, Strategic Alliances, and Design from enterprise-level companies such as Intel, GlaxoSmith Kline, Microsoft, Target, Best Buy… as well as independent consultants, academics and artists.

    Thank you Cecily, we’ll see you on June 15th!

    PUSH 2008: The Fertile Delta
    June 15-17, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN