Announcing Ignite: Experiences That Transform, Inspire and Connect

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In November of 2015, I took part in an experience that changed my world. I had spent the previous 3+ years as an early founder of a fast-growing tech start-up that grew from 5 to 125 employees in just over 2 years. It was fun, exciting, and challenging. Yet something was missing, and we got a lot wrong.

In particular, I saw firsthand the endless challenge surrounding employee engagement and retention. Employees were expecting and demanding more - traditional training and employee benefits were not enough. People wanted to connect and contribute to the world in meaningful ways and if we didn’t offer this, our employees would look elsewhere. Feeling this desire myself, I ventured to Nicaragua on a journey that would eventually lead to the announcement today of the launch of Ignite.

The experience, offered through an organization called Spark Ventures, co-founded by Rich Johnson, centered around a partnership with Las Tías, a grassroots organization in León, Nicaragua. Las Tías was started by eight women after the revolution and subsequent Contra War of the 1970’s and 80s that left the country in economic ruin. Initially, the women began reaching out to children left homeless from the conflict to simply provide shelter and comfort. Today, Las Tías has two thriving community centers offering meals, education, healthcare, and job skills training while providing hope to an entire community.

Over the course of our visit, we established relationships with local leaders, learned from their creative energy, built connections that would last a lifetime and were inspired by their work. Unlike organizations that provide “voluntourism” opportunities and assume a western savior mentality of trying to fix all the world’s problems, Spark’s partnership approach with Las Tías was culturally empowering, mutually beneficial and focused on lasting impact. And we knew that although our time was short, our connection was part of a larger relationship that started before we arrived, and would last for years to come.

It was through this experience that the idea for Ignite was born. Rich and I started to ask questions: how could more people take part in these sorts of experiences? Could we expand the partnerships established in Latin America and Africa and replicate the impact to other communities around the world, even domestically? How could we use these experiences as the foundation for a something bigger - something that brings people together, connects different cultures, empowers local organizations, and provides for a stronger global social fabric?

And as more and more companies struggle with employee engagement and look to retain and recruit top talent in unique ways (an emerging and significant trend in the workplace I saw firsthand), we also wanted to answer how these experiences could help companies engage, inspire and reward their employees while building a diverse, thriving culture. 

The quest to answer these questions over the past two years led us to found Ignite. And I couldn’t be more excited that today we come out of soft-launch (only 3 months ago) with partners ranging from MillerCoors - who, in their continued effort to become a destination for top talent, are offering our experiences for leaders in their craft department at Tenth and Blake - to smaller but fast-growing tech companies like BenchPrep who are offering our experiences as part of their employee benefits package. These experiences continue to be rooted in transformational connections and mutual learning with community organizations in Mexico, Nicaragua, and Zambia who are on the front lines of solving social, economic and environmental issues. In addition to this unique community engagement, our experiences provide rich cultural immersion, professional development, and team building, making them an attractive offering for companies looking to enhance their employee brand.

There is no doubt that in today’s highly politicized and increasingly isolated world, cross-cultural tensions can be high. But I’ve seen first hand how our experiences bring people together, bridge communities and make the world a better place. Our mission is to provide experiences that benefit humanity and the planet - and we have big plans to create additional experiences with new community partners (including domestic) while building out a platform to enhance and maintain the connections long term. I hope you join us on the journey - we’re looking to talk with partners (both companies and communities), people interested in joining us on our mission, and anyone that wants to change their world. You can learn more at www.experienceignite.com, or reach out to me directly and I’d be happy to tell you more.

I can't wait for you to journey with us.