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The Worker Bee

Last Friday, 20 December 2013, I was invited to attend an orienteering project for the students in the second year of their secondary education at Scuola Media Inferiore “G. Simoni” in Medicina (Bologna, Italy). This project aims to provide students with skills that will support them in their academic and professional development. In particular, it opens up possibilities for diverse academic paths and professional careers. I have to admit I was very nervous before the presentation, as mine came two weeks after Bruno Barbieri’s, world-known chef and judge at MasterChef Italia. Would I be able to meet the high expectations of the students and their professors?

Explaining concepts that are key to our work at Ākāśa Innovation, such as social and environmental sustainability, biomimicry, knowledge ecosystem, etc. in a country like Italy, where social entrepreneurship is still unknown to most, is no easy thing. So I decided to share my experience through the adventures of a worker bee, an insect that plays a fundamental role in the survival of the human species, as discussed in my post “A Future Without Bees”.

It is fascinating to see how much we can learn from nature, even from a worker bee. The worker bee teaches us that before undertaking any task, it needs to prepare itself by cleaning brood cells, which will be inspected by the queen. After this cleaning process, the worker bees experiments and learns how to fly before exploring the world outside the hive. Once it has learned to fly, it leaves the hive to find new access to food and communicates with the other bees through dancing rituals. Thanks to these rituals, bees can communicate with the rest the distance of the new source of food but also warn the rest of the group from dangers and threats. The worker bee has multiple roles for its colony: from the protection of the hive, through the assistance to the queen bee and to the production of honey. Therefore, each bee plays a fundamental role for the colony. Without each and every one of us, our community would be somehow dysfunctional, given that we all play a unique and precious role

The adventures of a worker bee allowed me to share seven features that belong to social entrepreneurs, but that are also guiding principles for young people to help them flourish in an uncertain future.

  1. Adapt to change: Everything changes, and fast too! It is therefore necessary to learn to adapt to change, to be flexible and open to new challenges.
  2. Take risks: The future is unknown and we need to take risks, to choose the path less travelled. Without ambition, there is no innovation.
  3. Small steps: Change does not happen overnight and it is thanks to small actions taken every day that we create the conditions that lead to radical transformation. Small steps that help up deal with obstacles that seem insurmountable.
  4. Courage: Sometimes, however, small steps are not enough and we need to step up and be courageous and take a leap of faith to obtain the changes desired.
  5. Curiosity: In a society deeply interconnected and interdependent, curiosity toward the world should be one of the leading motivations to achieve change. If we are unable to expose ourselves to ‘diversity’, we will have few chances to succeed.
  6. Collaboration: Each of the points presented above is very important, but none of them makes sense if they are not applied in a collaborative context. How can we think that a single person, or organisation, or government can solve the problems of our society? The world needs more collaboration, not competition.
  7. People and planet: Whichever path we choose to follow, we need to think about our impact on people and planet. If we fail to look after our only home, the Earth, no one else will.

I hope some of the students I met will follow the example of the worker bee and become active players in society.

Greta Rossi

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