Believe the world can be better and that we all can be better.
Lifelong student of empathy, earth, and equity. On this planet to support the mission for all of us to love learning about self, others, and our world. To reweave the fabric of our communities.
Where did the idea for Better World Ed come from?
I attended a progressive independent school for K-12. Learning was magical because our teachers cared about making learning engaging. Cared to help us love learning. Though there wasn’t content that helped us deeply immerse in the world, the challenges we face, and the ways we can work to address them. There wasn’t a deep enough focus on social emotional learning, nor was there a deep enough focus on global learning. When studying social entrepreneurship at Northeastern, it started to click that there’s clearly a way to bring this kind of learning to life from a much younger age. That’s when the experimenting began, both in teaching and in studying social entrepreneurship alongside some amazing humans.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
There is nothing close to a typical day. Some days are wildly effective and some feel slow. Some days are the highest parts of the rollercoaster ride, and some days I wonder where we’ll find money to stay afloat. Making it productive is quite the journey, and one that has been supported immensely by having a great support system of friends, family, and an awesome team that feels like both. Without these two aspects to life, there’s no way — despite how deeply I care for and live for this mission — that we’d still be able to be building this movement.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Alongside others. Learning and growing with humans who also want to see this kind of world and vision come to life. Listening, wondering, and asking questions about my assumptions and judgments. Bringing ideas to life is 104% a collective thing.
What’s one trend that excites you?
It’s amazing to see the demand for social emotional learning (SEL) growing in schools. The demand globally is skyrocketing, and it is such a critical time in the story of humanity. It’s key that we bring social and emotional learning to life in new ways, and schools are recognizing this more and more day by day. It’s powerful and inspiring to see.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Mindfulness and meditation. I used to work way too much and ineffectively. Hindsight is everything, and looking back, I used to tell myself I could just push through it. Maybe I could. But today, I find that (after tons of encouragement from advisors and friends) mindfulness and living in the present moment is the key to my productivity. Working based on my energy and not by some strange structured schedule I’ve created for myself has been a way for me to stay in flow longer and get way more done in a way more effective way — usually in a shorter time, too.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Know that this journey will be a long one, and start acting like it today. And every day that follows. Be patient, plan for the marathon and don’t expect every classroom and every newsroom to change overnight. Our education and media systems are entrenched and hard to change. Don’t let yourself believe that you’ll somehow be part of changing that overnight. We will make this happen together with passion, persistence, patience, and peace. Nothing more, and nothing less.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
That within all of us is the capacity to radically change ourselves, others, and our world within a month. If and when we all love learning about one another, ourselves, and our world — and when we learn to love self, others, and our world — we can transform our society into the magical community we know it can be somewhere deep in our hearts. We can all move from our heads to our hearts together, if we believe in ourselves and one another. If we listen and learn alongside one another. If we trust in one another.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I find myself wondering about and reflecting on basically everything I do. I tend to flood people with questions about them, their perspectives, and how they see various aspects of our world and this mission. The thing I do over and over that I feel can build on this even more is to make sure “people” are not just those I’m close with, but “strangers” too. People I don’t know yet. Learning perspectives and ways of seeing the world from those I’ve never connected with — across all lines of difference — has proven to be the most profound source of learning in my life.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Asking people across all walks of life the big questions that we have yet to address. Never feeling like X or Y is complete or finished, and treating our entire curriculum and product as a never-ending journey of growth and learning. It has led to new concepts, evolutions in our product development, new funding, new team members, and so much more that’s hard to explain with words.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
A thousand just came to mind. One that was particularly challenging was running out of money and having to let people I care for go (though hopefully not forever). I’m not sure exactly if we’ve overcome it wholly yet, though we did move past this experience. It was important to be honest and upfront (asap) with our funders and advisors and we managed to steady the ship again. We still are on a tight shoestring budget, though this experience helped us start building towards a more sustainable revenue model.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The most recent concept some friends and I thought of was a Ghee brand that blends a Warby Parker model with a Chobani model. Ghee products (from all types of animals) that are beautifully created and ethically made, while also supporting amazing organizations and education in the process through the profits. Maybe it’s educational programs focused on helping youth love learning about agriculture and climate change and how to nurture our environment? Who knows. I’ll be a customer for sure, though, if a reader decides to pursue this.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
On food and beverages on the way to my absolute favorite place in the world near Thirteenth Lake in the Adirondacks. This funding enabled us to eat, relax, and immerse in nature to “detox” from our tech for a while and just BE.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
“Moment”. It’s a free app that helps me see how much I’m using my phone and helps me move away from my phone more and more. Phones are addicting. I try to avoid mine. This is helping me be more mindful as I engage with my phone and with technology on the whole. I love it. A must try for anyone trying to reimagine their relationship with the tech that manipulates us (or tries really hard to).
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Anatomy of Peace. It’s by far my favorite book. It’s a story of peace at a personal, interpersonal, and global level that can help us all be more peaceful in our hearts and minds. With one another and ourselves. It’s what we all need. Imagine if every kid read this book when they were 6, 12, and/or 18. The world would be a totally different place for all of us, by all of us.
What is your favorite quote?
“Ubuntu speaks of the very essence of being human. We say “Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.” Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” We belong in a bundle of life. We say, “A person is a person through other persons.”
A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.”
– Desmond Tutu in No Future Without Forgiveness
- Be curious about yourself and others
- Learn from everything and everyone
- Believe the world can be better and that we all can be better
- Love and live deeply
- Believe in our human interconnectedness daily
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.