5 Lessons From a 128 Year Old Millennial

MCON, the Millennial Engagement Conference, was a resounding success this year. From incredible mainstage speakers and fun and enlightening behind-the-scenes interviews on Facebook Live, to engaging online attendee conversations on social media and in-person networking at official MCON evening events, this year’s MCON festival offered participants three action-packed days. It was incredible to hear from Millennial leaders about how they were changing the world, and to hear from innovative brands on how they are working to engage this cause-driven generation.

You can see all of the MCON mainstage talks on YouTube, but our favorite talk was from our CEO Jean Case, sharing how a brand that is 128 years old, National Geographic, continues to stay relevant today and has cultivated Millennial talent and attention. You can see Jean’s full talk below, complete with her “5 reasons National Geographic is really just a 128 year-old Millennial,” followed by a brief Q&A session with CBS News Anchor Reena Ninan.

Header photo courtesy of MCON.

The Roger Enrico I Knew: Extraordinary Leader, Intrepid Explorer, Mentor and Friend

It is not often that you come across someone who is so genuine of spirit that they leave a deep and lasting impression on how you see the world. Roger Enrico was one of those rare individuals. Upon hearing of his passing this week, amid the outpouring of sadness and tributes, I couldn’t help but be moved to share how much of an influence Roger was in my life and in the lives of countless others.

Roger was perhaps best known for his long tenure as CEO of PepsiCo Inc. and his visionary leadership as Chairman of DreamWorks Animation SKG. But ask anyone who worked closely with him or for him and they would also describe a man who championed others—often through providing opportunities to women, people of color and those with limited means. To many who worked for him, he was a lifetime mentor and friend. In so many ways Roger demonstrated just how deeply he cared for humanity.

In his later years as CEO at Pepsi, he gave up his salary and took just $1 a year so that he could dedicate the remainder of his generous salary to creating scholarships for the kids of employees of Pepsi who earned less than $60K a year—people he described as “unsung heroes.”

Roger, an advocate for inclusivity, was known for focusing on diversity in the Pepsi bottling divisions. There he helped many people of color find opportunity and wealth through this commitment. In his board service, he put an emphasis on attracting diverse, world-class talent.

It was Roger’s work with former Chair and CEO of National Geographic, John Fahey, that led to my own board service with National Geographic, where I serve as Chairman today. Several years ago, while Roger was serving as the Chair of the Nominating and Governance Committee, he reached out and asked me to join the board.

Through the years, I grew to truly love and appreciate Roger for his remarkable contributions to National Geographic. I had the great honor of first succeeding him as Chair of Nominating and Governance, and then the privilege of co-chairing the Search Committee with him that brought Gary Knell in as the new CEO when John Fahey retired from the role.

Being in the boardroom with Roger was fun, interesting and always a learning experience, but it was my experiences out in the field with him that I will hold most dear in my heart. In 2014, before Cuba opened up, National Geographic Explorer in Residence Enric Sala led a small cohort of National Geographic Trustees on a one-week exploration of the pristine seas area known as Jardines de la Reina off the coast of Cuba. It was an intense week of diving in which we accompanied Enric and the team for 3 dives a day to document and explore the health of aquatic life in this rarely-accessed reef area of our oceans. For our small cohort of Trustees, we lived together on the boat with the broader dive team, sharing meals, sharing stories and reflecting on the importance of conservation of our oceans. With each successive dive, 70-year-old Roger was often the first one suited up and ready to go.

Roger had a passion for our planet, and particularly for our oceans. At National Geographic he was beloved not just for his board service, but for his passion for the mission of National Geographic. He was truly an intrepid explorer and I had the privilege of being in the field, and in the oceans, on the front lines of exploration with him around the world.

So while the world knows Roger best for his executive role under fluorescent lights, to those of us who had the privilege of working with him at National Geographic, we would say his leadership, his generosity and his passion for exploration in the field leaves behind a legacy that will endure for many years to come.

It was an honor and privilege to call him a mentor, leader, friend, and he will be greatly missed.

Why MCON is THE Must Attend Conference on Millennial Engagement

With just a few weeks left until the sixth annual MCON hits Washington, DC, the Case Foundation and Achieve teams are buzzing with excitement. This year’s gathering is gearing up to be the most impressive yet, uniting nearly 600 cause champions committed to creating change and turning next gen interest into action. With 25 different sessions, more than 45 remarkable speakers, a political town hall, film screenings, parties and a host of networking opportunities over the course of three days, MCON is where social sector leaders unite to mobilize movements. But don’t just take our word for it… here’s a sneak peak at what’s in store and why MCON is the top next gen engagement gathering of the year.

  • A dynamic slate of speakers will take the stage, including our own Jean Case, Gary Knell of National Geographic, Gina Bianchini of Mightybell, Ettore Rossetti of Save the Children, Jeremy Ford of Dell Giving, Ambassador Mark Brzezinski, National Geographci Explorers Erin Spencer and Sylvia Earle, Chris Temple of Living On One, Laurindo Garcia of B-Change, DeRay Mckesson, Kevin Cleary of Clif Bar, Brian Ferguson of the DC Office of Human Rights, Karla Monterroso of CODE2040, Jay Newton-Small of TIME Magazine, restaurateur Jose Andres, Ryan Scott of Causecast, Janine Gianfredi of the U.S. Digital Service, Jesse Moore from the White House, Grammy nominated recording artist Ryan Leslie and many more still to be announced!
  • Enjoy VIP access to National Geographic’s campus in the heart of downtown DC. National Geographic, one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world, has been inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888 through geography, archaeology and natural science and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation. While there, attendees can check out the latest exhibitions, interactive experiences and stunning photography exhibitions featuring the work of National Geographic explorers, photographers and scientists.
  • Laugh out loud with Funny or Die creators David Litt and Brad Jenkins during their Politics and Humor panel.
  • Tune in to the Political Townhall hosted by the Washington Post to hear from Millennials in government. MCON is partnering with The Washington Post to present an interactive panel discussion on issues that affect the Millennial generation, how political engagement is changing, innovation in the public sector and how to increase Millennial voter turnout.
  • We know you will be hungry over the three days so we’ve partnered with some of the best fast-casual restaurants to keep your bellies full and brain on point. Guests will munch on fare from STK, &Pizza, Shake Shack, Taylor Gourmet and many more throughout the three days.
  • Watch the film screening of “Most Likely To Succeed” the new documentary film on the impact that innovation is having on our economy and the consequences for our country if our education system fails to keep pace. WATCH THE TRAILER
  • Check out the late night Bloc Party on Day Three and closing night celebration in the outdoor courtyard of National Geographic featuring local food trucks, drinks and a surprise live act!
  • Pack your running shoes for a run with Kevin Cleary of Clif Bar & Company, a leading maker of nutritious and organic foods and drinks for people on the go. Meet Kevin for a morning run on Day Three, then catch him on stage later that day as he shares how to build a sustainable brand.
  • Experience a taste of Spain on Day Two at an after party hosted by NYLON and Rock the Vote, with a special guest performance, at the SPAIN Arts & Culture Center featuring the most cutting-edge works of international renowned Spanish artists of our time.
  • Watch the private screening of “Salam Neighbor,” an award-winning feature documentary. As the first filmmakers ever allowed by the United Nations to be given a tent and registered inside a refugee camp, they provide viewers with a never seen look into one of the world’s most pressing crisises. WATCH THE TRAILER
  • Take a break in the MCON Lounge on site at National Geographic and network with other cause enthusiasts who will help you take your initiative to the next level.
  • Enjoy one of the many libations keeping you hydrated throughout the festival including drinks from Boxed Water, Owl’s Brew, Denizens, One Hope Wines, Peet’s Coffee, Heritage Distilling, Port City Brewing and Flying Dog Brewery.
  • Step into the opening night party at Renwick Gallery just across the street from the White House, sponsored by the Case Foundation. The Renwick is home to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection and has one of the finest and most extensive collections of its kind.
  • Be one of the first to read the 2016  Action Report released on Day One. Learn about how politics may influence next gen engagement with social causes in this exciting new survey.
  • Attend for free! Yes, free. Are you a student, activist or social entrepreneur that could really benefit from a conference like MCON but you can’t seem to fit it in your budget? Apply for an MCON 2016 scholarship while they’re still available HERE.

Can’t make it to MCON this year? Don’t worry. You can check out the livestream throughout all three days and join the conversation online using #MCON. We can’t wait to have you join us!

Jean Case Elected Chairman of the National Geographic Society

Today, we are excited to announce that our CEO, Jean Case, has been elected chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National Geographic Society. We could not be more proud of our CEO as she steps into this role with such an iconic organization.

Jean joins a successful line of stewards who have guided National Geographic to great heights over the course of its rich 128-year history. From her leadership at the Case Foundation to her pioneering efforts at AOL, Jean has worked tirelessly to create opportunities that enrich people’s lives and the planet on which we live. We marvel at her innate ability to be both a student of the world and history, all the while fearlessly looking forward and forging an intrepid path.

For more than a decade, the Case Foundation has been proud to partner with and support the important work of National Geographic. The Foundation has long believed in the power of leveraging innovative business models to tackle global challenges, transform communities and drive social change. As one of the world’s longest standing social enterprises, National Geographic has been a natural partner for the Case Foundation in our work to lift up fearless, bold and visionary changemakers.

And while Jean may be spending a bit more time at the National Geographic headquarters just steps away from our office here in Washington, she is more committed than ever to the mission of the Case Foundation and our investments in people and ideas that can change the world. As Jean steps into this new role today, we encourage you to read her thoughts on Medium about the incredible journey ahead.

Celebrating Exploration with National Geographic

This post was written by Aaron Coleman on behalf of the Case Foundation:

National Geographic has celebrated explorers for more than 120 years and each year they honor these fearless individuals by sharing their stories during Explorers Week. Through a series of panels and TED-style talks, National Geographic spotlights intellectual pioneers from around the world. This June, the Case Foundation team attended the “Explorers Week: Disrupters Panel” to hear scientists and designers discuss the triumphs and failures from their explorations. The topics varied from recycling nuclear waste to constructing urban farms, and while eclectic in subject matter, the presentations emphasized the urgent need to catalyze social and scientific change.

“Create another world if you’re not happy with the one that we have,” suggested Caleb Harper, an Urban Agriculturalist and National Geographic 2015 Emerging Explorer, who is building vertical farms to address the global food crisis. His daring proposition was echoed by fellow emerging explorer Leslie Dewan, a nuclear engineer, whose company converts nuclear waste into a “resource to be tapped instead of a liability to be disposed of.” By harnessing energy from discarded nuclear waste, Dewan and her team are working to “reduce the radioactive lifetime of the nuclear waste from hundreds of thousands of years, to a few hundred years.”

Dewan calls this a transition from “a geological timescale to a human timescale.” This concept, that a society we can fix big social problems on a human timescale, is a bold shift away from the incremental change typical of social progress; it challenges us to find solutions in our lifetime.

For too long, we have believed that some problems are too big—that tough issues should be left to gradually dissolve under the tides of time, but in this void of timid and unimaginative thinking entire communities in need have languished. Persistent social problems require bold solutions. Just because you’re faced with cumbersome legal regulations and political red tape “doesn’t mean that you have to do small scale things,” said explorer Skylar Tibbits during the closing segment. Tibbits notes that “there are lots of opportunities to innovate.”

At the Case Foundation, we stand alongside Caleb, Leslie, Skylar and countless other explorers in the belief that the impossible is possible and that we must move from a “someday timeline” to a “right now” timeline. These explorers inspire the work that we do and remind us how to be fearless in our efforts to change the world.

We encourage you to get inspired by learning about National Geographic Explorers and learning how you can Be Fearless and take on a new approach to making big change.


Photograph by Lynn Johnson, National Geographic Photography Fellow


A Worldwide Exploration Right In Our Backyard

This post was written by Abigail Hunter, Daniela Fernandez and J.D. Brady on behalf of the Case Foundation:

Earlier this month, members of the Case Foundation team attended the 2014 National Geographic Explorers Symposium— a two-day event with the world’s top explorers who are pushing the boundaries of knowledge and discovery. This year’s Explorers Symposium was part of the society’s 125th anniversary and a celebration of fearless adventurers, scientists, photographers and storytellers who are making a difference. The common theme shared among all their presentations: we must be innovative when addressing challenges.

Here’s a brief recap highlighting key takeaways:

Food for Thought

Author and activist, Tristram Stuart discussed one of the most critical challenges we face with our global food system: food waste. According to Stuart growing more food isn’t the solution to solve world hunger, instead reforming the current food distribution system is key. Jerry Glover, agricultural ecologist, also spoke on the importance of ensuring regional food security, emphasizing the challenges of population growth, soil erosion and soil degradation. In addition to discussing the importance of domestic and global food security, ecologist and epidemiologist Christopher Golden highlighted the connection between environmental changes in the wildlife and human well-being. Although each of the panelists brought forth unique perspectives, they all agreed on the principle of viewing world problems as opportunities for change rather than seeing problems as stagnant obstacles.

Innovative Approaches

Evolutionary biologist Ryan Carney, robotics engineer Robert Wood and multimedia artist Paul Miller (DJ Spooky) recounted new techniques in their respective fields that were fearless in their approach and pushing boundaries. Miller defined an explorer as someone who takes the established position of the world around them and pivots, which resonated with the theme of the panel. During the question and answer session all three addressed the question of risk in their work, stating that you must push past the risk to accomplish something worthwhile. As Robert Wood eloquently put it: “If we know how to do it, it’s not risky enough.”

Pushing Boundaries

Photographer Cory Richards, a pioneer in educating female populations in Afghanistan Shabana Basij-Rasikh and geographer Kendra McSweeney, who studied the effects of drug trafficking on cultures in Honduras explored the theme of “Pushing Boundaries.” The panel emphasized the emotional connection needed to push past obstacles and make a difference in local communities. Shabana told both the dangers she faced attending school in Afghanistan under the Taliban, and the work she is currently undertaking to help girls still affected by limited education opportunities.

Exploration in Progress

The final feature showcased a handful of speakers, who each spent up to three minutes giving “rapid fire updates” on their recent activities. Photojournalist Reza Deghati gave an especially memorable update on his work training refugee children in photography, video, and design so they can become visual storytellers. “I believe in the power of pictures for social change,” said Deghati while showing the audience photographs refugee children took of their surroundings. Another notable talk came from ethnobotanist Maria Fadiman, whose upcoming project will include a book that preserves the cultural, linguistic, and ecological heritage of the Ha people in Tanzania. Her project combines culture, language and photography as a means of addressing preservation issues.

With the wide variety of topics, the 2014 National Geographic Explorers Symposium evidenced the potential of collaborative and innovative projects to solve global challenges. We were honored to join these worldwide travelers along their journey. Learn more about the speakers HERE and follow @NatGeoExplorers on Twitter to stay connected and follow the explorers along the way.

Fear less: A National Geographic Explorer’s Story

This post was written by Heather Greenwood Davis on behalf of the Case Foundation: 

In 2012 National Geographic Traveler magazine announced their new Travelers of the Year initiative. The honorees were a group of fearless boundary breakers who explored the world with passion and purpose, inspiring others to expand their horizons, ask big questions, and seek new answers. One of those fearless travelers was Heather Greenwood Davis, a freelance travel writer based in Toronto, Canada. She took a year-long journey with her husband, Ishmael; and sons, Ethan and Cameron (then 10 and 8-years-old), and chronicled their yearlong, round-the-world adventure on globetrottingmama.com. Nominations are open for the 2013 Travelers of the Year awards here.

I’m going to share with you the biggest secret I’ve discovered about fearless living: 90 percent of the things you fear melt faster than the Wicked Witch of the West did when Dorothy doused her with water, once you confront them. The mere action of “doing” usually erases the fear, showing the uninformed foundation it stood on. I know this firsthand.

I know this because for 12 consecutive months – from June 2011 to June 2012 – I travelled around the world with my husband and two sons under the age of 10. We visited 29 countries on six continents and carried the fears of our family, friends, and a lifetime of being raised on a fearful continent with us.

At a recent National Geographic Live presentation, my family and I shared our journey with an audience of about 200 people as one of National Geographic Traveler Magazine’s 2012 “Travelers of the Year.” As I got up to join other winners on the stage, the host introduced me as “fearless.” I quickly corrected him. I wasn’t fearless, I was afraid – before we left, at times on the road, and even when we returned as new people in an old world.

I was afraid but we did it anyway. We weren’t fearless but we did fear less the more we traveled.

Looking back, our first step to fear freedom wasn’t the one that put us on a plane out of Toronto, it was the one that led me to start www.globetrottingmama.com – the blog we used to tell the world we were planning to do this crazy thing. When we launched the site months before we left, it was the equivalent of signing a contract in our minds. By telling the world we were doing this, we would have no choice but to follow through.

The telling made the leaping easier but the fears continued when we finally set out months later, until we recognized a pattern.

We would enter country after country, city after city, carrying the weight of the fears and then, slowly but surely as we met people in the places we were visiting, those fears would disappear. Every single time.

One particular moment that sticks in my mind happened during the latter part of the trip. We were trying to decide whether we should visit Egypt. A friend in Kenya asked what we were afraid of, and as I pondered that question I received an email from home. Attached without comment was a list of the ten most dangerous places in the world to visit. A quick glance showed that we’d visited about half the list and a few more remained on our planned itinerary. We read the concerns and advice for destinations where we had enjoyed wonderful evenings out, met new friends, and never once felt unsafe. It was proof that what people think of a place can never compare with what you know once you’ve seen it yourself. We’d visit Egypt, we decided, and continue to see what the world had to offer. It was one of the best decisions of the trip.

I want to be clear. I’m not saying the world isn’t a dangerous place. I’m not suggesting that you should venture to all places with reckless abandon. Not at all.

What I’m telling you is that not venturing somewhere – in the world, in your career, in your life – because you perceive it to be frightening is never a good way to make a decision. Our 12 months in the world have shown me that allowing your life to be dictated by fear will only leave you with a less fulfilled existence. It’s only by jumping in with both feet and getting as close as you can to the roots of your fears that you’ll be able to determine their validity. Fears stand strong from afar; you have to get close enough to throw the water if you want the witch to melt.