Foreign Service Journal - June 2013 - page 54

JUNE 2013
Unreasonable at State: It’s Not What You Think
Definition of UNREASON-
1. a : not governed by or
acting according to reason
<unreasonable people>
b : not conformable to
reason : absurd <unreason-
able beliefs>
2 : exceeding the bounds
of reason or moderation
<working under unreason-
able pressure>
Unreasonable hangs out
with a lot of negative words,
such as ridiculous, nuts,
crazy and impossible, to
name just a few.
Daniel Epstein—along
with George Bernard Shaw—
decided that unreasonable
didn’t have to hang with
the aforementioned words.
Instead, it belonged with
words like brilliant, exciting,
innovative, boundless—you
get the idea.
Or do you?
Here’s what Shaw had to
say about unreasonable and
how it equates to man: “The
reasonable man adapts him-
self to the world; the unrea-
sonable one persists in trying
to adapt the world to himself.
Therefore, all progress
depends on the unreason-
able man (and woman).”
Enter Epstein, a college
kid in 2007, who spent a
semester on the shipboard
program, Semester at Sea.
He says it changed his life (as
do most of the students who
spend 3½months traveling
the globe). But then Epstein
took that life-changing voy-
age and molded it into the
Unreasonable Institute.
Things started getting
exciting (see new definition
of unreasonable above). “If
George Bernard Shaw is
right, if all progress depends
on the unreasonable person,
than we cannot afford to
bet on unreasonable people,”
the institute postulates.
For background, this is
what the institute does:
“Each year, we unite 10 to
30 entrepreneurs (called
“Unreasonable Fellows”)
from every corner of the
globe to live under the same
roof for six weeks in Boulder,
Colo. These entrepreneurs
receive customized train-
ing and support from 50
world-class mentors, ranging
from a
magazine Hero
of the Planet, to the head of
user experience at Google X,
to an entrepreneur who has
enabled more than 20 million
farmers to escape poverty.
In the process, they form
relationships with corpo-
rations and international
organizations, receive legal
advice and design consulting,
and get in front of hundreds
of potential funders. Our goal
is to bring all the resources
to accelerate these ventures
so they can scale to meet the
needs of at least one million
people each.” (source:
Sounds unreasonable,
unless the notion excites you.
So, on May 1-2, the
Department of State’s Global
Initiative Program partnered
with the Unreasonable
Institute, Stanford Univer-
sity’s and the Aspen
Institute to present two days
of mind-boggling presen-
tations from 15 startups.
Unreasonable continued on page 58
(From top left, clockwise) Solar Ear makes the world’s first solar rechargeable hearing aids; Daniel Epstein (in blue)
works with entrpreneurs aboard the
M.V. Explorer
during Unreasonable@Sea; USAID’s Chief Innovation Officer
Maura O’Neill, Raabia Budhwani from State’s Global Initiative Program, Unreasonable Institute founder Daniel
Epstein, State’s Acting Special Representative for Global Partnerships Thomas Debass and Institute for Shipboard
Education President Les McCabe; a State employee puts pipe cleaners to use to solve a problem.
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