Just IMAGINE if - Nothing was Impossible
The three little words ‘just imagine if…’ have started endless sentences in my head, ever since I was a toddler.
“Just imagine if”, we could send a man to the moon and return him safely to earth.
“Just imagine if”, we could eradicate smallpox, a killer of millions, from the face of this planet.
“Just imagine if”, a prisoner of 27 years could forgive his captors, unite his country and restore humanity and humility across the whole world.
Of course, we don’t need to imagine these achievements. They were all ideas that - as unbelievable as each might have seemed even a decade earlier- became a reality.
Ideas fascinate me.
Ideas are the driving force behind real social, economic and environmental change.
Ideas are uniquely human, bringing to mind something Nobel prize winner, Professor Muhammad Yunus, once said: “Human creativity is unlimited. It is the capacity of humans to make things happen which didn’t happen before.”
Thanks to the miracle of human creativity, even the smallest ideas can become global solutions.
My idea was Ella’s Kitchen, a brand that completely re-thought everything about baby food; from its ingredients, to its packaging, to the very purpose of its existence.
The purpose of Ella’s is not to sell baby food, but to improve the lives of children by developing healthier relationships with food.
What I realised in putting my idea into action, by building a company with the purpose of making change in the world, and succeeding, is that any idea has the potential to change the world, it just needs the right investment behind it.
I can help others to do the same and ensure that their ideas - however big or small - amount to something extraordinary.
With that idea in mind, I created just IMAGINE if…a social enterprise and innovation competition that is all about celebrating and maximising the potential of ideas.
Working in partnership with the University of Reading, we developed this concept and provided a springboard to purpose-driven leaders from the world of academia, business, social enterprise and entrepreneurship.
Our inaugural competition took place at the University of Reading last month, with ten finalists pitching their ideas to an audience of purpose-driven entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Everybody involved in the competition, from the finalists, to our partners and supporters, to the audience, share a common drive to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
To reflect this, we ensured that all of the ideas presented had the potential to tackle at least one of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals from poverty and inequality, to climate change and environmental degradation, to peace and justice.
What we do not want to come from just IMAGINE if… which will become an annual competition hosted at a different university each year - it will be in Durham in 2020 - is a winning idea that remains just that; an idea.
We want to turn dreams into reality, and so we are investing £75,000 into the competition winner, dedicated to bespoke, world class research in partnership with the University of Reading.
Our winner was Alexander Wankel, with his start-up, MilQ, which sources milk from Andean free-growing quinoa. This uses 3000% less water than cows and 300% less than almonds, and is all sourced directly from Peruvian small holders.
I hope the £75,000 investment helps this idea to blossom into the next great purpose-driven business this world has seen. I certainly imagine it can.
Even more importantly, I hope that even without the investment on this occasion, the other nine ideas we heard presented at the inaugural just IMAGINE if… do not give up.
Do not give up trying to revolutionise the urban farming supply chain, increasing the use of sustainable materials in fashion, or widening access to alternative education practices. Do not give up fighting to end sexual exploitation in Africa’s fish trade, to challenge attitudes around end of life healthcare, or to offer an early childhood coach to every care-giver. And do not give up the dream of giving children the vital vitamins they need to thrive, improving mental health through incredible smells, or transforming the sex and feminine care industry.
The message I want to send to every one of our finalists, and to anyone who comes up with an idea to impact the world, do not think it is impossible to achieve your dream and change the world.
Muhammed Ali said: “Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
With this ringing in our ears, our minds and our hearts: I truly believe that there will be an idea being forged in one person’s mind, somewhere in the world today that if by design or chance it gets found and cultivated correctly, it could quickly be used to scale change.
Just imagine if it did.