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Based in New York City, The Feast Conference has welcomed hundreds of entrepreneurs, stakeholders, thinkers, creators, and do-ers across disciplines to discuss creative solutions for societal challenges since its launch in 2008. This year, the Feast poses questions about societal challenges including learning, health, and veterans, such as:

– Why is it so hard to turn what you learn at school into real-world skills?
– Why is it so hard to be healthy every single day?
– Why is it so hard for vets returning from war to connect with people and services they need?”

The Feast will not contain its dialogue to one city, as Co-Founder Jerri Chou and The Feast team are reintroducing The Feast Worldwide. This is a series of international, independently organized dinner parties on October 18 at 7:00pm local time to spark a global dialogue for good that will connect communities around the globe. The Feast invites all of us to join the global conversation and connect with each other to spark greater innovation within our communities. Conscious Magazine was fortunate to connect with Jerri Chou to discuss what makes the conference unique, why ‘play’ is so important, the potential for disruptive innovation, and which of the featured speakers that Chou is most excited to hear.

Q | Since 2008, The Feast has been fostering a community of innovators committed to addressing societal issues with creative solutions. In 2012, you created The Feast Worldwide to offer an international, independently organized series of dinner parties to foster real engagement and action in communities around the world. What are you most excited about this year?
A | 
The Feast is about connecting people, creating social insight, building teams, and transforming spaces. We have created new ways for everyone in the room to create collective insight, knowledge, and new office ventures – basically, ways for people to form stronger cooperation. That part of the event is probably the most experiential. It’s very hands-on, and it connects stakeholders with designers. On a global scale, we invite and better connect people through technology here in New York City, as well as foster conversations around the world.

Q | The Feast emphasizes the importance of cultivating relationships in what often can be a large, impersonal setting. Part of the way The Feast overcomes that challenge is by having fun – prototyping with play dough, pitching with songs, and making things together. Why is ‘play’ important for innovative creation? Also, why is creating something that is tangible so important for the Feast?
A | One of the reasons we have a playful atmosphere is to give people the space to step out of the mind frame of skepticism and ‘cannot’ into a space of openness and possibilities. All of the sudden, the rules aren’t obeyed anymore, and there is an openness that is really important for the creative process. I have a very hard time sitting down and listening to stuff for a long time. I think that there is an urge for people to not talk as much. There is a desire, especially in a particular community of thinkers and creators, to not just sit there but to try things. Just try things, even if it’s just a prototype.

Q | What is the potential of disruptive innovation?
A | Many people (for better or worse) talk about social innovation with the idea of solving social problems in a particularly non-profit orientation. We talk about social innovation with a perspective that thinking is done better in a paradigm of business models for a chance to create solutions with new options based on how society and the world operate. That’s the kind of innovation we’re interested in. While we still think about many social development issues, we also think about what opportunities exist in developing them.

Q | I was so excited to read the list of this year’s speakers. Who are you most excited to hear?
A | Anne Mahlum of Back on my Feet (BOMF) will be great. She teaches homeless people a new way to see themselves and change their lives through the power of running. That idea is amazing to me: changing peoples’ perspective about what is possible, so that they can see just how powerful and capable they are. She has a lot of faith of people.

I’m really excited about Robert Thurman, who is a scholar, writer and Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University]. He will share a sharing a spiritual side and personal aspect with us. Everyone will be awesome, but I’m really excited about those two.

Q | Compared to The Feast conference, how will The Feast Worldwide spark greater action and innovation in communities around the world?
A | The Feast Worldwide is an evolving thing. I think what we’re excited for this year is to create a simple medium for people to come together around a certain topic. Instead of asking people to create solutions at these dinners, we offer people something to talk about over dinner. We provide questions to get people started on a journey of asking questions and connecting with a global community of people. That’s why we wanted to build a platform that brings people together and better connects them.

Q | What message do you hope the experiences of The Feast and the worldwide dinner parties will convey?
A | I hope it conveys that we have the potential to change the way the world works. I know that sounds cliché, but I really hope and think that through the hands-on aspect of the Conference and the dinners, people will walk away thinking: “I can do something. There are other people out there doing something. I have seen opportunities, created solutions, and even responded to them. Those are things I want more of, and I want my life to be about that because that is how we can change the people around us.”

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From the Editor
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