By Stephen Auvil '14, Chief Program Operations Officer, TEDCO
The last time I attended a symphony, I recall listening to the musicians warm up and tune their instruments just prior to the start of the concert – the crisp notes from the violins, the soft tones from the oboes, and the heavy percussion from the drums. Honestly, what I was hearing was more noise than what I would call music. I certainly recognized that each performer was uniquely talented and independently could produce beautiful music but listening to the collective group play in an uncoordinated fashion did not produce something pleasing to the ear. That said, I did not abandon my seat and leave the concert. I knew that the musicians would soon play together as a coordinated orchestra and generate a quality of sound more magnificent than any of the individual musicians could achieve by playing alone.
This should not surprise anyone. Gestalt theory teaches us that a whole system taken together can have a greater value than the sum of values from its individual components. In my current role at TEDCO, I interact with various organizations supporting Maryland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem – the collective organizations and resources supporting entrepreneurs and early-stage companies in our state. Like the individual musicians, each of these organizations and resources independently provides unique value to the ecosystem through advising, business incubation, funding, etc. That said, when I look at our ecosystem with a Gestalt perspective, I see an opportunity for much greater coordination – the opportunity to create a symphony of support.
This is not just my perspective. In 2017, the State launched an initiative, Excel Maryland, to take advantage of the State’s strengths in cybersecurity and life sciences to advance its national leadership in these areas. The effort was to accelerate innovation-driven commercial activity. Two consultants were hired to examine Maryland’s ecosystem. The consultants were from Massachusetts, a state that has been very successful developing its life sciences economy. They found that Maryland had a wealth of resources; however, better connectivity between the various [resources] was needed to strengthen the State’s leadership. The challenge is finding a way to improve coordination of the various resources that we have available and elevate Maryland’s ecosystem as a whole.
Meeting this challenge will require individual stakeholders to look beyond themselves. To look beyond their individual or organizational metrics. To look beyond the personal credit that might be achieved through individual success. To take a Gestalt perspective and look at their role in the larger ecosystem and to appreciate the greater value and greater efficiency associated with collaborating with others in the ecosystem to raise the overall quality of support in our state.
At TEDCO, we are buying into this philosophy and leveraging Collaboration, one of our core values. To this end, we are currently supporting an effort by the Maryland Business Innovation Association (MBIA) to explore how Maryland’s various incubator and accelerator programs could be better coordinated and what value that could bring to the State. For example, this effort could help to standardize and collect metrics that will enable us to tell better stories of success, to attract investment to the State by creating a critical mass of funding opportunities available from all incubators across the State, and to better share resources so a company at one incubator can more easily access resources at another.
TEDCO is also part of an initiative called the Urban Business Innovation Initiative (UBII) focused on Baltimore City and Prince George’s County to support entrepreneurs in traditionally underserved communities. A group of 23 partners (thus far) are working together on this initiative. The UpSurge Baltimore effort is bringing together hundreds of ecosystem stakeholders to make Baltimore the country’s first Equitech city. The Small Business Administration (SBA) just closed its Community Navigator funding opportunity that required applicants to propose a hub and spoke model that involved the coordination of several partners within an ecosystem. These represent a few examples of efforts to “knit-together” parts of our ecosystem. We need more.
It is time for leaders in Maryland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to put the greater good of the ecosystem’s success, beyond their own individual interests. They need to find new ways to collaborate with more stakeholders. As more individuals take on leadership roles and recognize the benefit of being proactive with uniting the ecosystem, Maryland can position itself to lead the country in innovation and technology-based economic development. The instruments are tuned, the warm-up is over, and it is time to make music.
This is a contributed post from our silver sponsor, TEDCO.
Changing Lives and Strengthening Connections: How Youth Leadership Organizations Band Together to See Students Succeed
When people put their heads together to achieve a goal, amazing things can happen. The same can be said for organizations that work together to better the community. Maryland Leadership Workshops partners with some incredible organizations who also strive to see student leaders discover their potential, refine their skills, and work together to achieve their goals, while making a difference in their schools and communities.
Two organizations that have helped us train and connect with more students across the state of Maryland and improve the MLW experience for our staff and delegates are the Maryland Association of Student Councils (MASC) and the Charles County Association of Student Councils (CCASC). With collaborative opportunities and their support, MLW shares our magic with more people while offering students different leadership perspectives and real-life experiences.
The Maryland Association of Student Councils (MASC)
MASC—a peer-led, hands-on leadership organization—teaches students about important skills such as organization, responsibility, communication, time management, decision making, and professional writing, while focusing on issues including mental health, cultural sensitivity, biases, and more. Offering workshops, round-table discussions, town halls, and conferences, MASC teaches students how to navigate difficult or uncomfortable situations that they might experience as community leaders.
MASC has supported MLW from the very beginning, seeing as MLW was originally known as MASC Leadership Workshops. “The purpose was ‘promoting leadership in student councils’ and utilizing peer facilitators,” shares Karen Crawford, MASC assistant executive director and longtime MLW advocate and supporter. “In 1972, when the sponsorship of MASC went to the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), MASC Leadership Workshops became an independent entity known as Maryland Leadership Workshops.”
But MASC’s support did not stop there. Ever since the first annual summer conference in 1956, MASC has supported MLW by sending its four elected officers to MLW summer programs, spreading our mission, and networking with our delegates and staff. “Students have different needs and engaging in MASC and MLW programs exposes them to unique view points and experiences,” shares Nicete Moodie, MASC executive director and alumnus and past regional president of Charles County. “It’s important to show our students how two organizations can effectively support one another. Many of our students go on to work with MLW and we always love having MLW at our conferences.”
MASC students are encouraged to attend MLW programs, while many MLW staff members present at MASC’s conferences or help train student leaders at MASC events. “From the modeled leadership and workshop content to the student-led discussions, the mutual support we share is invaluable,” states Karen. “This partnership allows MASC and MLW to influence and assist students to be the best they can be in order to inspire the next generation of student leaders,” adds Nicete.
The Charles County Association of Student Councils (CCASC)
Another organization that is heavily involved with MASC and MLW is the Charles County Association of Student Councils (CCASC). In fact, CCASC learned about MLW through its membership with MASC. “Our students have attended workshops and summer programs with MLW every year that we have been a member of MASC,” states Gary Winsett, CCASC regional advisor. “Many students in Charles County have gone on to serve as staff for MLW.”
Having assisted as CCASC regional advisor for 12 years, Gary oversees and coordinates all efforts that involve the student governments from across Charles County—including all middle school and high school student councils. After witnessing how vital MLW workshops are to the growth of student leaders, Gary presented the idea to the Charles County School Board to send one student from every middle and high school to MLW. “We are blessed with a supportive school board when it comes to student leaders. They have always been supportive of our efforts, attending student led events, and encouraging the student voice,” he states. “When I suggested my idea to send students to MLW, they were on board from the beginning.”
Depending on an institution’s selection preference, one CCASC student from each school attends an MLW program each year. “I reserve a spot for our student member of the Board of Education as a CCASC representative to strengthen their leadership and communication abilities when working with our Board of Education members,” states Gary. “Students take these leadership skills and use them as they mature into adult leaders. They grow in self-awareness, self-confidence, as well as collaboration and compassion with others.”
Partnerships that Inspire Powerful Change
You can learn more about MLW and its one-of-a-kind partners at mlw.org/partnerships.
It’s almost time to open applications and once again begin the very important process of selecting our next Leadership Maryland class! It’s always exciting to meet new candidates who are motivated to experience our program and join our membership family.
Part of keeping our program thriving is ensuring we always have a vibrant list of prospects, and to build that list, we rely heavily on nominations from our members.
“Leadership Maryland is only as good as the participants make it. Having quality individuals with differing perspectives, backgrounds and experience is the lifeblood of the organization,” says Diane J. Devaney ’16, who nominates as many as 50 or more candidates each year. “I had such a wonderful experience in Leadership Maryland, I want others to experience it, too. By recommending individuals who I think are just a perfect fit for the program, I am paying it forward to keep the program going, stronger than ever.”
Kenneth L. “Ken” Brannan ’05 (LM), board vice chair, agrees that paying it forward is a vital component of the Leadership Maryland experience. That is why he is always working to identify new candidates and likes to have two or three potential applicants lined up for each new class year.
“Leadership is about passing the baton,” he says. “If you are not cultivating and providing stewardship for the next generations of leaders, in my judgement, you are not much of a leader.”
In addition to supporting the continued success of our program, nominating deserving candidates can also be an effective way to foster relationships.
“I feel that I also gain a lot from nominating individuals,” says Diane. “I nominate clients, prospects, referral sources and influencers to my business. Everyone always appreciates being nominated. I keep a running list throughout the year and whenever I meet someone who I think would be a good candidate, I write them down.”
No one better understands the makeup of an ideal Leadership Maryland program participant than those who have already lived it, which is why we so strongly value recommendations from our members.
“I look for individuals who have a bright intellect and a curious mind. I try to identify candidates who are open to unexpected outcomes and confident in addressing life's challenges,” says Ken. “It has been my experience that class members who are open, but not attached, to the outcome gain the most from the Leadership Maryland program. These graduates continue to find relevance in engaging with our organization long after the experience of their individual class year.”
“Even though I nominate many people, I am very picky in who I choose, because I am very protective of the program,” says Diane. “Leadership Maryland is not for salespeople or anyone with their own agenda. I love when I find an industry that I have never seen represented or is under-represented in our membership. I think all C-level executives who are new to Maryland should go through the program, plus it is always good to have a few legislators as well.”
Renee Winsky ’05, Leadership Maryland president and CEO, agrees that member endorsements are the organization’s most powerful marketing resource.
“We have learned the best nominations are those that come directly from our members. Word of mouth or, in our case, ‘word-from-the-impassioned-member’ is better than any ad we could buy or any social media message we could post,” she says. “We are grateful for every nomination we receive.”
To submit a nomination for the Class of 2022, please send your candidate’s name and contact information to Renee at email@example.com. All prospects will be notified as soon as the application is available.
Thank you for your support in preserving the legacy of Leadership Maryland for the next generation!
Season 2, Episode 7: A Leader’s Toolbox: Striking Balance, Making Connections, and Establishing Trust
“[Good leaders] have an openness to things we may not know, or even be interested in at the onset. Oftentimes, leaders have grown to a point where they’re experts in their field, but we always have the opportunity to learn more and grow more.” – Eli Modlin ‘19 (LM)
In this episode, Eric Brotman ’09 (LM), and guest host Eliot Pfanstiehl (LM) are joined by Eli Modlin ’19 (LM), Chief of Staff and Director of Government and Community Relations at Salisbury University. Eli and the hosts discuss how Salisbury University has navigated political, social, and COVID-19 issues, while faculty and staff have worked together to assist students and families during this unprecedented time. Eli shares insight on leadership roles within the University, and how the institution goes above and beyond to engage with and support the greater Salisbury community.
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In this episode, we discuss:
About our guest:
Eli Modlin has served as Chief of Staff at Salisbury University since July 31, 2019. Prior to this position, Modlin held roles as Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Government and Community Relations.
Eli graduated from Salisbury University with a degree in communication arts and a minor in political science, spending his summers in Washington, D.C. as a U.S. Capitol intern. At Salisbury University, he served as president and general manager of the campus TV station, SUTV, where he conducted interviews with dozens of state and local leaders including Governor Larry Hogan, Senator Chris Van-Hollen and other members of Congress, the Maryland General Assembly, and local elected officials.
In addition to the President’s Executive Staff, he chairs the Town-Gown Council and serves on the PACE Steering Committee, Safety Task Force, Neighborhood Relations Committee, and Strategic Planning and Budgeting Committee.
Prior to joining SU, Eli served as the Public Affairs Officer for the Comptroller of Maryland where, as a member of the Communications Team, he was responsible for writing speeches, talking points, and briefing memorandums for the agency. Before joining the Communications team, he served as the special liaison officer and handled constituent matters and staffed the Comptroller in Baltimore City, Baltimore, Howard, and Wicomico Counties.
Eli is a member of the Salisbury University Chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa and an active alumnus of Mount Saint Joseph High School. He is also a member of the inaugural class of the Transformational Leadership Program, a collaboration between Salisbury University and the Greater Salisbury Committee to engage the next generation of leaders.
Beyond the University, Modlin serves on the board of directors of My Brother’s Keeper, a Baltimore organization that provides workforce development and meals for those in need, and the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce. He also is a member of the National Folk Festival Executive Committee and the Leadership Maryland Class of 2019.
By: Jody Sprinkle '17, Chief Government Relations & Policy Officer, the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO)
At TEDCO, we embrace the core value of stewardship every day in each of our programs. It is our responsibility and privilege to manage the scarce resources entrusted to us by our public and private partners. As a quasi-public instrumentality of the State of Maryland, TEDCO incorporates stewardship into our mission to serve the State’s entrepreneurs in an efficient, effective, and fiscally responsible manner.
TEDCO provides a public service to the State’s entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem by providing grants, investments, and wraparound services. Nothing is more fundamental to public service than the trust instilled by the citizens it serves. That trust is earned by the continuous and repeated demonstration of responsible stewardship of the public’s investment.
More broadly, for TEDCO, stewardship means that we understand the impact of our resources and how we choose to deploy them. Our resources are deployed to maximize the benefit to Maryland entrepreneurs and to position Maryland for growth. Since its inception, TEDCO investments have led to the creation of over 7,800 direct jobs in Maryland. Under the Maryland Innovation Initiative alone, our portfolio companies have generated over $200 million in follow-on funding. TEDCO has made over 400 investments from our Seed Fund in Maryland start-ups. In total, TEDCO has generated over $1.6 billion in economic impact for the State.
However, having core values means that we cannot let successes lead to complacency. Good stewardship also means openness to stakeholder input. It means that we are caretakers of the relationships with our collaborators in the ecosystem. We use that stewardship to strengthen the dialogue with our partners to evolve our programs to be more responsive to the challenges in a modern economy. We build on that stewardship to cultivate a reputation for an unfailing dedication to our mission.
When we demonstrate trustworthy, ethical, consistent, and responsive stewardship, we are afforded the confidence and the space to lead in new and pioneering ways. TEDCO is developing innovative approaches to entrepreneur development because of its proven track record of responsible and productive investment. This is increasingly vital as Maryland continues to address a new generation of rapidly changing technologies, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robotics, biotechnology, clean energy, and blue technology, etc. This challenge is compounded by new realities of changing workplace dynamics and a long overdue reckoning with income and wealth disparities.
TEDCO is embracing its leadership role by facing these challenges with new programming and re-energized partnerships. With the Department of Commerce and the University System of Maryland, TEDCO has launched the Maryland Entrepreneur Hub, an AI assisted portal that matches Maryland entrepreneurs with the best and most appropriate resources in the State. Under the Builder Fund, TEDCO has introduced its first Entrepreneur-in-Residence to guide early-stage companies that are owned by socially and economically disadvantaged founders to meet critical milestones toward growth. To address the economic impact of the pandemic, and with the partnership of the Governor and the Maryland General Assembly, TEDCO launched the Rural and Underserved Business Recovery from Impact of COVID-19 (RUBRIC) Grant Program and the Agriculture and Rural Rebuild (ARR) Challenge.
The benefits of stewardship do not only lie in the accumulation of trust, but in the flexibility to find new methods to address modern challenges. TEDCO earns its freedom to innovate by embracing its role as a steward of a public mission. TEDCO will continue to use its stewardship to lead innovation to market.
This is a contributed post from our silver sponsor, TEDCO.
Maryland Leadership Workshops Content Director Tiffany Wang tells us what delegates can expect from MLW On Tour
Due to the pandemic, Maryland Leadership Workshops truly reinvented itself in 2020, offering MLW @Home – a virtual program that gave delegates across the state the opportunity to experience MLW at no cost for the first time. This year, with concerns about COVID lingering, the MLW team is innovating again to create another first-time experience – MLW On Tour!
Consisting of four three-day workshops in different regions of the state between July 7 and July 28, MLW On Tour will give delegates the opportunity to gather safely in-person close to home. And for those who can’t attend in person, MLW will again offer free content online to give every Maryland middle- and high-school student the opportunity to immerse themselves in all aspects of leadership.
We recently spoke with Tiffany Wang, MLW Content Director, to learn more about the MLW On Tour experience and what delegates can expect this summer.
Q: This year will look different than MLW’s traditional residential summer programs. Can you tell us how each MLW On Tour stop will be structured?
A: Even though MLW On Tour is not our traditional summer program, we still aim to provide the same “MLW magic” – a transformative experience in leadership anchored in social justice – just as we do every year. This summer we are focused on helping delegates develop the tools they need to be able to advocate for the issues they're passionate about in their own communities. Each tour stop will include three workshops, community-building discussions, guest speakers, and a community project where delegates can put the skills they've learned into action. The workshops will build on each other so that by the end of the tour, delegates will have a better understanding of the roles they can play in creating change in their communities, as well as their relationships with others in those communities.
Q: Since not all delegates will be able to attend in person, what content will be available to access from home?
A: We will have four free mini-workshops that will be accessible through our website. We are also planning two community calls for the month of July, where delegates can call in from anywhere to discuss issues that matter to them and learn about what's going on in other areas. In August, all MLW On Tour delegates will have the opportunity to share their community projects on one last community call that will be open to everyone.
Q: What has the process of building this curriculum been like? What goes into shaping the content for each workshop?
A: I am so grateful for the other three members of the content team. This curriculum was truly a collaborative effort between the four of us, other members of MLW who assisted with the brainstorming process, and the two amazing high school students who came in to give us feedback. We started with the big picture, with questions such as: "What are the main takeaways we want for the delegates?" and "If we could offer literally any workshops in the world, what would they be?" From there, we grouped together similar themes and discussed what needed to be included so we could meet the main goals of the program as a whole.
Q: What can you tell us about the workshops you’re creating?
A: Our first workshop centers on understanding identity expression and how to effectively communicate one's passions with others. The next zooms out to focus on how delegates interact with the rest of their communities, the roles they play when advocating for change, and navigating the other resources available to them. The last workshop seeks to look at the larger systems affecting delegates' lives and tapping into the power they already have to achieve their goals. We hope these workshops, along with our free virtual workshops, can supplement the skills delegates have already developed as leaders in their communities.
Q: With just a small group of delegates participating in person in each region, will there still be opportunities for delegates from different regions to interact with each other?
A: While the structure of MLW On Tour does limit the opportunities for delegates from other parts of the state to get to know each other, I'm really excited about the opportunities presented by the regionally-based programs. Since each tour stop will bring delegates from more homogenous areas, it gives us the chance to make the community project truly based on their community and lets delegates share region-specific resources with each other. That being said, we hope delegates from all across the state can attend our virtual community calls, where that cross-community discussion and resource-sharing can still take place. We also encourage everyone to attend our end-of-tour community project presentations that will take place virtually at the beginning of August.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like us to know about MLW On Tour and the curriculum you are building?
A: I think this summer has really given us the opportunity to think outside the box and push the curriculum further with both the workshops and other programming. Young people today are often already doing work in their communities, so our goal is really just to assist them by introducing them to more concepts and tools that they can adapt for themselves.
Registration for MLW On Tour is open now. To register, visit: http://mlw.org/apply-2/.
Season 2, Episode 6: Spotting the Difference: Are You an Average or Outstanding Leader?
“Average leaders tell people what they want to hear, while outstanding leaders tell people what they need to hear.” – Sean Looney ‘96
This month on Engaging Leaders, we welcome Sean Looney ‘96, vice president of state government affairs for Comcast NBCUniversal. Listen as Sean discusses which qualities separate average leaders from outstanding ones, and why true leaders are defined by their ability to adapt to circumstances, ask questions, and engage in uncomfortable conversations.
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In this episode, we discuss:
About Our Guest:
Sean Looney is vice president of state government affairs for Comcast NBCUniversal. He represents the company before state-elected and appointed officials in Maryland and Delaware. Sean has worked in state and federal government affairs for more than 30 years for NJ Bell, Bell Atlantic, Verizon, and Comcast. He is a 1996 graduate of Leadership Maryland and received the Leadership Maryland Leader of the Year Award in 2003. Sean has served in leadership positions for numerous business and community organizations. He lives in Annapolis, MD and Avon-by-the-Sea, NJ with his wife and two children.
Season 2, Episode 5: Crisis 101: Over-Communicating, the Alignment of Control, and Finding Balance In-Between
“Seek examples of effective leadership in unusual places—go out of your way to thank people and listen to what they share with you.” – Joseph DeMattos ‘08
In this episode, Eric Brotman ‘09, and guest host Eliot Pfanstiehl (LM) are joined by Joseph DeMattos ‘08, president of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland (HFAM). During the conversation, Eric, Eliot, and Joseph discuss leadership lessons from COVID-19—particularly in the healthcare industry—and how to lead from where you are, while understanding the importance of over-communication and the mirage of control during crisis.
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In this episode, we discuss:
About our guest:
In April 2009, Joseph DeMattos, Jr., MA became president of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland (HFAM) – the oldest and largest long-term care association in the state representing skilled nursing, sub-acute facilities, assisted living programs, and continuing care retirement communities. As president, DeMattos is responsible for managing and leading HFAM, a voluntary provider community association chartered in 1948 as the Maryland Nursing Home Association.
Prior to joining HFAM, DeMattos was AARP’s senior state director of Maryland—which has more than 875,000 members. He was responsible for the management of the AARP Maryland State Office in Baltimore, and charged with directing the organization’s advocacy, community service, and educational activities statewide.
DeMattos served in leadership roles for AARP’s Medicare Prescription Drug and Social Security campaigns. Prior to becoming state director, DeMattos was AARP’s interim Director of Advocacy where he directed government relations and advocacy nationwide.
DeMattos has more than 28 years of professional and community service experience in the fields of communications, community outreach, public relations, and government relations.
Before joining AARP, DeMattos was a government relations and crisis communications practitioner at a prominent Hawaii public relations firm. DeMattos served on Hawaii Governor John Waihee’s Executive Chamber staff and on the Office of Information staff. In Hawaii, DeMattos also served on the staff of the Attorney General and as a legislative aide in the State House.
DeMattos is a graduate of the University of Hawaii and is also a past president of the University of Hawaii Alumni Association. DeMattos holds a Master of Arts in Government from Johns Hopkins University. He has completed executive education studies in Management at the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania. He is also an alumnus of the Pacific Century Fellows Program, a Hawaii-Pacific program modeled after the White House Fellows. He is an alumnus of the Leadership Maryland Class of 2008.
Season 2, Episode 4: Past, Present, Future: Analyzing Multigenerational Leadership
“Being a strong leader is about being yourself and developing your own footsteps. If you want people to follow you, you need to take on a cause.” – Jim Perdue '00
This month, Eric Brotman ‘09 and guest host Memo Diriker ‘12 are joined by Jim Perdue ‘00, chairman of Perdue Farms, for a conversation about how Perdue Farms has navigated the pandemic, the different dynamics of family leadership, and the importance of diversity in decision-making.
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In this episode, we discuss:
About our guest:
Jim Perdue has been the chairman and advertising spokesman of Perdue Farms since 1991. He is a third-generation leader of the company founded by his grandfather in 1920. In 1983, Jim Perdue accepted the invitation from his father, Frank Perdue, to return to the family business. Over the next eight years, he worked various plant management jobs and was then named vice president of quality improvement.
Under Jim’s leadership, Perdue has grown from an East-coast centered label of premium fresh chicken to a national roster of premium protein brands which includes chicken, turkey, pork, beef and lamb; in addition, Perdue Agribusiness went from a regional grain and oilseed business to a multi-faceted international player. His leadership guided Perdue to become a leader in workplace safety and associate health, including innovative wellness programs.
Jim’s commitment to earning consumer trust guided Perdue to becoming the first major poultry company to move all of its chicken to no-antibiotics-ever protocols. In 2016, Jim announced the company’s Commitments to Animal Care, a groundbreaking initiative that is transforming Perdue’s approach to raising chickens.
As Chairman, Jim is responsible for ensuring the company stays true to its vision and values and ensuring that the company continues to build on its strong corporate responsibility programs, especially continued leadership in elevating animal care and in strengthening relationships with farmers.
Jim received his undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University, a master’s degree in marine biology from the University of Massachusetts at North Dartmouth, a doctorate in fisheries from the University of Washington Seattle, and his MBA from Salisbury University in Maryland. Jim is a member of Leadership Maryland’s class of 2000, he serves on the board of the National Chicken Council and the board of the Oyster Recovery Project, and he is extremely active in the local community.
By: Arti Santhanam '21, PhD, Executive Director of the Maryland Innovation Initiative at the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO)
When I was asked to write about TEDCO’s core value of collaboration, the word that immediately came to mind was “ubuntu.” Ubuntu is a Zulu word that Archbishop Desmond Tutu defined as “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in what is yours.” In the simplest terms, ubuntu means, “I am because we are.”
Scholars of African studies and philosophy state that ubuntu is actually an intentionally vague term, similar to the Sanskrit word “namaste” (which loosely translates to “the divine light within me bows to the divine light within you”). Like namaste, ubuntu is much more than just a word—it’s a philosophy, a world view, and a framework for how we relate to and work with others.
While the concept of ubuntu has spiritual connotations, it has practical applications as well. As a socio-economic ideology, ubuntu encourages equity and equality as a means of generating shared wealth, promotes collective responsibility for the greater good, and fosters appreciation for each individual’s unique talents.
At TEDCO, ubuntu manifests itself primarily in our core value of collaboration: “We focus on building trust and credibility across the organization and with our customers. We are transparent in the exchange of ideas and our encouragement of one another. We value teamwork in our pursuit of supporting innovation and entrepreneurial excellence.” Driven by this value, we embody ubuntu both internally and in our service to Maryland’s diverse entrepreneurial community.
Collaboration serves as the foundation upon which TEDCO has helped build the state’s thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem since our founding in 1998. Over the last 22 years, our team has tapped into the power of partnership to identify opportunities to strengthen the state’s economy, provide valuable resources to entrepreneurs, and cultivate an environment that is open to innovation, creativity, and diversity. Without this group of like-minded, passionate people working together toward shared goals, TEDCO simply wouldn’t exist—and the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem would be nothing more than a great idea.
TEDCO has worked hard to knit together an entrepreneurial ecosystem that connects like-minded entrepreneurs, subject matter experts, academics, legislators, and business leaders from all corners of the state. Together, we have woven in diversity of thought, variety of skills, and myriad needs of our citizens to build a vibrant tech-based entrepreneurial community that’s consistently ranked in the top five in the United States.
A tangible example of successful collaboration in the spirit of ubuntu is the Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII), which brings together universities—public and private, large and small—with the goal of leveling the playing field for technology commercialization. While equality doesn’t always lead to equity (we certainly have more work to be done in this area), we have embraced the ubuntu principles of community and collaboration to significantly impact the entrepreneurial cultures at Maryland’s universities. Collectively through this program, we have de-risked over 250 technologies, created 100 startups and attracted over $530 billion in investments.
During challenging times such as the ones we are living in now, it’s more important than ever to embrace ubuntu in spirit and in practice. Through collaboration, we can overcome challenges, find solutions, and empower Maryland’s entrepreneurs to transform their ideas into vital businesses that will expand wealth and improve quality of life for our state’s residents and beyond.
This is a contributed post from our silver sponsor, TEDCO.
Providing thought leadership and insights from our organization, board, and members.