Impressions of the South American Business Forum ’14

Impressions of the South American Business Forum ’14

100 students gather in Buenos Aires to talk about a sustainable development of South America and the world

It’s that moment when you get out of your CDTM bubble full of innovation, startups and cutting edge technology, you travel halfway around the world to meet other students, and you realize that you are still in the very same bubble. Everywhere from Argentina to Australia, Holland to South Africa: everybody is talking about the same new hot thing from Silicon Valley and the identical articles on TechCrunch.

The South American Business Forum (SABF) is an annual international conference for students. The theme of 2014, Age of Collaboration really got you thinking on how to collaborate globally – let alone with the people there, representing 28 countries. A hundred hand-picked students were invited to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for a 3-day session of talks and discussions, and to make a contribution to a sustainable development of South America and the world “through dialogue and the interaction between current leaders and future leaders“, according to SABF’s motto. Since it’s first edition in 2005, the conference has been run entirely by a dedicated team of students of the Instituto Technologico de Buenos Aires (ITBA), a private university running at the intersection of management and technology.

And the Forum did justice to its theme. It was a great place to talk to people who share the same experiences and aspirations in life, even though they live thousands of miles away. The program offered food for thought during speeches, workshops and ample networking activities. Alexander Laszlo, President of the International Society for the Systems Sciences presented indicators for collaboration and explained how „Shift happens“, while Mark Nelson, Co-Director of the Stanford Peace Innovation Lab, focused on ways how the human race can be and do good to one another by designing peace and peace technology. Speakers from Argentina and North America represented both start ups, corporations and academia, and set the focus on the theme’s sub-topics: ethics and technology, sharing economy, and the future of education. As these were also the topics for the essay required with the application, students with similar interests could elaborate further on the ideas that inspired them in the first place.

Some of these initial ideas were shared in depth on the second day of the conference. During student speeches, six essays were presented and discussed with experts. Thus, my Friday morning started with 30 people listening to my thoughts on global collaboration, as I explained how Simon Sinek’s golden circle can be applied to motivate and inspire international collaboration. In the later sessions, we dived deep in Latin-American economic and cultural peculiarities, as CEOs of Argentinian start ups trying to disrupt the local markets shared their experiences. In addition to the main agenda, we got to experience Argentina beyond it’s world-famous culinary perks over lunch. The activities varied from a city tour through a party to celebrate the 10th edition of the conference, and a real treat at local restaurant, a parrilla argentina with the most types of meat I have probably ever eaten within one day.

Despite unstable economic conditions, Argentina has one of the most solid entrepreneurial ecosystems in Latin America, with more and more talent and venture capital flowing in. Western entrepreneurs should keep an eye on the development there and foster bonds. For me, the global connections made during the South American Business Forum were definitely one of the greatest benefits, and proved how small the world is – especially when you go out in the world, meet students who study in Brazil and Sweden, and it turns out that they are friends with other CDTM students. And your bubble follows you wherever you go.

SABF 2014: Conference Closing Video from SABF on Vimeo.

Juli studies communication and human-computer-interaction at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and started CDTM in the fall of 2013. She is interested in arts and sciences, combining the worlds of design, technology, and social innovation.