Points of Light 2021 Conference Recap

By Gina DiMaggio, Medica Foundation

The 2021 Points of Light virtual conference was focused on the theme of Inspire. Learn. Act. As we all know, 2020 was a year like no other and corporations and nonprofits across the country had to adapt and take action. It was a year full of challenges, and companies had to learn to do things in new ways. But it also changed many things for the better.

What struck me about this year’s conference were the number of presenters speaking honestly about their struggles, both as individuals and speaking for their organizations. It was refreshing to hear about their challenges, which are so relatable, and how they turned them into opportunities. A speaker from National Geographic acknowledged that their organization historically tends to make change slowly, but the pandemic forced them to do things in new ways and their storytelling has improved as a result. Executives from Disney shared that the pandemic has forced them to tell their own personal stories and lead with more heart, resulting in building the kind of culture that helps businesses be more successful.

Many of the sessions focused on building a new era of volunteerism and corporate civic engagement in this new world. Speakers generally didn’t think we will ever go “back to normal”. Instead, we have to evolve with the times, both as individuals and businesses. They suggested modeling the behavior we want to see throughout our organizations. One speaker eloquently advised helping people see past the turbulence in order to see what could be, thereby carrying us all to a better place.

But being honest and real and moving forward in this new era can be scary. Felipe DeAndrade, a National Geographic Live Explorer, spoke of his fear of water and sharks and how he transformed his fear into a career and passion. Sharks, unlike fear, are tangible. Fears, on the other hand, are often created in your head by pressure you place on yourself by something you may not even care that deeply about. Fear of failure prevents many people from trying to reach their goals. Those who just try have already succeeded in many ways. We better ourselves because of what we go through, not in spite of it.

The ocean was once DeAndrade’s greatest fear and now is his greatest lesson. “We all have a story to tell. Be honest with yourself. Identify your fears. Go after them. I promise a better you will come out on the other side.”

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