- The Power of TrustLearnings from Six Years of Building a Global Community of Young Leaders
Sandbox is the leading global community for exceptional young changemakers. It exists to provide every young doer with a trusted group of peers and a place to learn from, connect with, and support one another. Sandbox counts over 1,000 members from a variety of backgrounds and has active hubs in 31 cities worldwide. Sandboxers and their work have been featured on the front pages of Wired, Fast Company, Forbes, and the Boston Globe, and have been covered in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Inc., and Vogue, as well as on CNN, ABC, and many other media channels.
How it all Started, a Long, Long Time Ago . . .
The two of us have been working together since we were 15. That’s when the idea behind Sandbox first emerged. While we were in high school, we were both deeply engaged in Swiss student politics, as was Antoine Verdon, who would become a Sandbox co-founder and its first CEO. Together we organized a series of workshops for student activists from across the country where we met many people like ourselves—full of ideas and ambition to build things and create change in the world.
After graduating from high school, we continued to work together, and became interested in entrepreneurship. We ran a bar on a boat, organized job fairs at our university, and eventually started an event management company together. A few years later, at a reunion of our student politics friends, we realized that many of them had taken similar paths. The raw ambition of our high school years had turned into actual projects. People had started companies, gone into politics, moved into leadership positions. They were shaping the world around them. At this moment we asked ourselves: Where will these people be five, ten, 30 years from now? Will they still have that fire we saw in them in high school? Will they still be active and building things?
That’s when the idea of Sandbox was born. We were convinced that the active young doers of today will probably still be active 30 years from now and we asked [End Page 43] ourselves: What if we could create lifelong friendships with the fellow misfits of this world and build things together for the rest of our lives? What would the world look like if the leaders of tomorrow could meet now, instead of 30 years from now? What would our collective journeys look like if we could support each other on the way, learn from each other, and build things together?
Sandbox, Since Year One
Sandbox evolved in many ways during its first six years and became a community more by accident than by plan. We went through four phases.
Phase one was a global conference that never got off the ground.
We had a background in event management, so our original plan was to organize a large conference with corporate sponsors, who would pay for amazing young people to come together—we were imagining a World Economic Forum for the under-30 crowd. There was just one tiny problem: timing. We started working on the conference idea in 2008, just as the financial crisis was unfolding. It soon became clear that our plan to find sponsors would not work. We had to find another way.
Phase two was small dinners.
Though we couldn’t afford to host a large conference, we kept bumping into amazing young doers who we thought would be perfect Sandboxers. So, to build relationships with them we started putting together small informal dinners in Zurich and in any other city we traveled to. Fabian moved to New York City and started organizing dinners there. Christian Busch, who would become another cofounder, started hosting dinners in London. Our friend Björn Herrmann started doing so in San Francisco. The feedback was very clear: people loved hanging out with like minded peers, and they wanted more of it. But what more could we offer them?
Phase three was creating a framework for a community.
We realized that while the...