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Living Entrepreneurship - The Story of Dr. Jane Goodall
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Living Entrepreneurship - The Story of Dr. Jane Goodall
Entering the room at the main building of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), Dr. Jane Goodall raised interest of many school children of international schools who seemed to be engaged in her project “Roots and Shoots“. The slightly built woman got invited to the stage by the dean of the faculty of social sciences and immediately started talking in a calm and friendly voice:

Giving the audience a very brief overview of her recent engagements, she started her presentation with greeting the audience in “chimpanzeeish”, or as she would probably prefer to express it: Had this sound have been invented by a human, would it’ve been called “hello”. This way of expressing her observations is what, as she claimed, had enabled her to start and was a key success factor during her scientific career. She participated in a PhD program without having any prior academic experience. Until this point of time she had only been giving chimpanzees names and had been describing in her own words what she had seen. Since chimpanzees showed very human-like behaviours and capabilities, the definition of human had to be re-thought. It was not believed that animals could have emotions and as Dr. Goodall states, at this time it was not known that:

    * chimpanzee DNA differs only one percent from the human DNA
    * chimpanzees have the same immune system as humans and can therefore receive and distribute all human infectious diseases
    * the anatomies of chimpanzee and human brains are almost identical
    * blood transfers from chimpanzees to humans is possible if they have the same blood group

What’s the story behind this “living legend”?

Being born into a poor family in London just before the Second World War, the young Jane Goodall was dreaming of living like Tarzan in the jungle. She said that the most important thing her “wonderful mother” had taught her, was that if one really wants to reach any goal, then one’d had to:

    * Really want something
    * Take advantage of opportunities
    * Work hard
    * Dream

You have to really want something

Since she was young, her mother had provided her with books about animals. Moving from the city of London to a farm, Jane, for the first time in her life, got in contact with real animals. At the age of four the wanted to explore the origin of the eggs and after several fails, finally hid from the hens in the stall in order to observe them. From that point of time, she says, she wanted to live with animals. The story of Tarzan and Jane was it, what set the course for her to become one of the first to examine chimpanzee lifes. Ever since she deeply wanted to live in the jungle.
You have to take advantage of opportunities

As Jane’s friend’s family moved to Kenya, Jane got invited and wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. Due to a lack of financial resources she had to take on a job as a waitress and save the tip to finance the trip. Finally having arrived in Africa she got to know her later mentor Louis Leakey, who hired her and let her fulfill her childhood dream of living with chimpanzees, which, at this time, was an uncommon job for females to do. She had no prior experience and therefore just noted what she saw and how she perceived it - probably the reason for why the meaning of the word human had to be redefined.

You have to work hard

Jane worked at a a family hotel where she made “sure, that by the end of the week everyone would know that [she] was saving [her] tip for a trip to Africa in order to get a higher tip or to get a tip at all.” Later on she had to fight for the funding of her first research project and found herself in a situation that sounded similar to the one of truly innovative startups looking for venture capital: She had no experience, was too young to have any credibility and had an idea to do something that nobody had ever done before and most people considered to be absurd. But, most importantly: She got the money and only half a year later she got backed by National Geographic. As one can guess from her current reputation, she was right and the early investors took the right decision in financing the young Jane. Until today (her 73rd and her foundations’ 30th year of existence), she keeps travelling in her function as embassador of Roots and Shoots, as UN embassador for peace and as a researcher.
You have to dream

Since being a child, Dr. Jane Goodall had the dream of once living with the animals in the jungle. She kept dreaming and her dream has evolved to a vision of every species of life living in a balanced world, where humans do take care of the environment and do not fight wars. She dreams of everyone taking action with the means he or she’s got and in the field of action that suits him or her best. According to Jane, when dreaming it is most important to share the dream, work hard to realize it and keep an open eye on opportunities that arise in one’s environment.

Dr. Jane Goodall ended her presentation by asking herself and answering one of the most important question people have raised in the past:
Jane, considering the mess in today’s environment, do you still hope?

And she wouldn’t be called an entrepreneur if she didn’t keep on hoping (or shall I say dreaming?) for the following four reasons:

    * The tremendous enthusiasm of young people
    * The evolution of the extraordinary human brain with intellectual capabilities that enable us to realize the mess
    * The human capacity to forgive
    * The amount of passionate and dedicated people that surround her

Her final call went out to everyone to take action in whatever way he or she could, be it in the framework of her organization roots and shoots, by supporting any other organization or by just taking action for the sake of making the world a better place.

Further information about the story of Jane Goodall can be found at:

    * Wikipedia article about Jane Goodall

by Andreas Brenner, a University of St. Gallen graduate and co-founder of Synetgies.

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