Each year since 2013, EO recognizes one outstanding member who embodies the heart and soul of volunteerism, and who paves the way for others to follow, through its EO Global Citizen of the Year Award. Past winners have helped orphans in Panama, removed tons of plastic from the Pacific and revolutionized healthcare in Africa.
In April 2017 at EO’s Global Leadership Conference in Frankfurt, Germany, Cameron Madill was named EO’s Global Citizen of the Year. He earned the honor for his work volunteering in a Texas prison for Central American refugees and his efforts in building a scalable venture philanthropy model that supports pro bono legal assistance to refugees around the U.S. with a goal of growing from three sites to more than 100 by the end of 2018. We caught up with Cameron to learn more about his work as a social entrepreneur.
What work led to your Global Citizen of the Year Award? How did it feel to receive this honor?
I’m involved in scaling a non-profit called The Innovation Law Lab that uses technology, process optimization and data to provide pro bono legal representation at far greater scale and effectiveness than traditional methods. In 2016, with 10 to 15 volunteers a week, our team represented 30,000 refugee mothers and children, securing the release of 99.9% of them from the private prison in Texas where they were detained. We are currently expanding our work into 10 different locations around the country, including an exciting partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center.
I am extremely grateful to EO for honoring me with this award, and it was a very cool experience to be on stage in front of so many EOers in Germany. Individual awards provoke mixed emotions, because they’re an attempt to fit the work of so many people into the narrative of a specific person. I feel honored to be connected with so many brilliant and committed people and organizations.
What inspires you most?
I am always inspired by people who have a strong bias for action without a personal agenda. The “getting stuff done” aspect of business invigorates me. Finding people who view themselves as servant leaders of their community—whether it is a business, organization or segment of humanity—instead of focusing on their own narrow self-interests, lifts me up. I try to surround myself with them every day.
What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your entrepreneurial journey?
One that stands out in this context is the need to commit to action as soon as your “product” is functional. I was a bit of a perfectionist in school, which I realized can hinder effective action in any context. So, I have begrudgingly accepted the concept of the M.V.P. (minimum viable product) in everything that I do and try to find that balance between getting it right and getting it to market.
How has your work on EO’s Accelerator Global Subcommittee impacted you?
It’s been a remarkable opportunity to learn about influence and leadership as I’ve watched the EO Accelerator program evolve over the years—first as a participant, then running a program, and now on the Global Subcommittee. It’s fascinating to watch how people behave in a volunteer context and to try to learn what motivates them and why.
I learned a lot from watching two inspiring member leaders, Chris Hanahan and Brandon Dempsey, transform a program that was a bit static into one of EO’s fastest-growing and most successful programs today. It’s also been a tremendous lesson in scalability to watch how Becky Roemen, Lauren King and Ali Smith run a program with more than 1,000 global participants and manage all the member leaders. I’ve applied a lot of the techniques I’ve learned from these experiences to both our B Corp community and our refugee work.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs who are looking to make their mark beyond their businesses?
I thought giving advice was against EO’s protocol! For me, this entire project grew out of an impulsive decision to volunteer for a week in a refugee prison back in June 2015. I always find it eye-opening how isolated we become in our own realities . . . the notion that one block away exists a community that you know nothing about. One of PixelSpoke’s core values is authenticity, and I think—as in so much in life—the answer lies in this trait.
Take a chance to engage with and explore something that you are curious and passionate about, and take a chance to go somewhere where you are not the expert or the authority. We all started a business because of our passion for solving problems, and the social sector has so many fascinating and deeply meaningful problems that are begging for the creativity that comes with an entrepreneurial mindset and skillset.
What work do you hope to do in the future?
I get a lot of energy out of what we call “Everybody Wins Thinking” at my company (another one of our values). I think business can be such a powerful and creative force for good in our world. We are at a moment in history where we cannot rely on government or non-profits to solve the many challenges our planet faces, and I hope to continue to inspire members of our EO community to think bigger about their impact in the world.
To me, business is all about the art of possibility; I invite all of you to consider the possibility that by committing to positive impact with the same intensity that we do growth and profitability, we might become even more effective as business people and leaders in all arenas of our lives.
Past winners of EO’s Global Citizen Award include Manny Padda in 2016 and Sri Bharatam in 2015. To learn more about EO and how it can support your personal and business growth, check out www.eonetwork.org/why-join/the-eo-experience.