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Leadership for positive impact

WISE Face to Face Workshop

12th – 13th March 2015

After two days full of experiential learning, knowledge sharing, passion, friendship, and networking, WISE Greece, face to face workshop came to an end. Hosted at European Sustainability Academy (ESA) in Crete the WISE experience concluded with a very fruitful end on Friday March 13th.. By the end of the workshop, what was left were smiling faces among participants, mentors, teachers and guests. Several participants said they did not want to leave, others said that the experience had been ‘life changing’.



“ It is an amazing feeling to be part of such a great team. The ESA experience is an amazing experience itself. Thank you for being so supporting and make us feel fearless. I will keep the ESA feeling with me all the way to entrepreneurship.”
Nefeli from Thessaloniki


Day 1: Twenty women from across Greece and Cyprus arrived at ESA Crete. These included Helen, Sia, Filio, Barbara, Dora, Pepy, Anita, Lyda, Maria R.,Nefeli, Maria Z., Kleopatra, Margarita, Myria, Paraskevi, Maria V and Christiana. Plus teaching, facilitation support from Soledad, Firori, Susse, Katerina Sharon and ESA WISE man John. First positive impressions were built upon the bioclimatic, self –sustained, off-grid, 100% sustainable building hosting the WISE experience in Greece.


European Sustainability Academy (ESA) Crete

“The work done, the people making the work and the whole WISE experience at ESA is, was and will probably be one of the most inspiring experiences I had.”
Maria from Athens

Founder and Managing Director of ESA, Sharon Jackson introduced the special qualities of the building among with the Health & Safety rules. During a welcoming breakfast everyone became acquainted in the workshop area and met special guests from India, Europe and Greece. The WISE face to face experience commenced with a special ESA workshop opening ‘ritual’ including beautiful wild Cretan flowers and candles. This was facilitated by Susse Mariana Smedes who launched the workshop in a very special manner that allowed participants to relax, feel comfort and make their minds more receptive. The opening ceremony created ‘mindfulness’, everyone soon felt comfortable with each other and started exchanging their ideas and expectations from WISE.


Opening of WISE Face to Face workshop



Susse Marianna Smedes welcomes WISE to ESA

 “ I love the energy in the room, the flowers and herbs.”
Myria from Cyprus

After Soledad Pons made an introduction speech, the starting lecture was delivered by Dr F.Zafeiropoulou who defined Social Enterprise (socent), and presented best practices from Greece and abroad, while making a clear distinction between the socially responsible businesses who often are misconceived as social enterprises. Participants were interested in learning what makes someone a social entrepreneur and if there exist any profitable social enterprises that return their financial product back to society.


Dr. Fiori Zafeiropoulou explains the difference between social enterprise and socially responsible business


Dr. Fiori Zafeiropoulou explains the difference between social enterprise and socially responsible business

There was a surprise for the host Sharon Jackson who received a special gift from guest speaker from India, Dr Shibu Cheruvelil. This was a ceremonial adornment used on the foreheads of elephants in India during parades.


ESA Founder, Sharon Jackson, receives a gift from Dr. Shibu Cheruvelil

Sharon Jackson then delivered a ‘trigger speech’, in which she shared her personal story of building ESA and the ‘fears and failures’ she encountered during creating a significant entrepreneurial initiative. She gave her advice on how to use practical techniques and personal ‘self –empowerment’ and ‘self – protection’ tools, firstly to retain a strong vision of purpose and secondly to remain positive during the challenging process of setting up an enterprise. The next session focused the essential resilience followed as a core thematic experience coupled by a creative feedback approach by Soledad. Later on, Soledad challenged participants to understand and face their fears by deconstructing the meaning of failure through an interactive and participative learning experience.


Participants listen to real life stories of overcoming fear and building resilience in entrepreneurship

Throughout the workshop, all participants enthusiastically exchanged suggestions amongst them in personalized sealed envelopes to read when they returned home.


Feedback envelopes



Wise ladies working on their businesses


“ It was so nice here. I learned so much and I felt so at ease! It is such a warm place to be. It was an experience I never forget.”
Barbara from Crete

The evening of Day 1 WISE experience, concluded with an amazing dinner of local Cretan recipes , supplied by local restaurant caterers Emerald from Plaka in the ESA dining room.



Dinner preparations




Sharon Jackson welcomed everyone and introduced a special guest, the Apokoronas Mayor Mr. Koukianakis. The mayor shared his vision of stimulating entrepreneurism in the region and the contribution of Socent in that vision. He confirmed his ongoing support to ESA and the WISE project.


Sharon adressing the crowd


Apokoronas Mayor Mr. Koukianakis

Following dinner, Dr Shibu Cheruvelil, Executive Director at Agency for Integrated Development Initiatives (AIDI) , New Delhi India, introduced his impressive work around empowering women in India. Participants were deeply interested in problems women face in India and AIDI actions undertaken to overcome them and support women. The main interest of WISE women was to know if AIDI intends to move into developed countries, as well.


Dr Shibu Cheruvelil, Executive Director at Agency for Integrated Development Initiatives (AIDI) , New Delhi India

Day 2 started quite differently as participants had already become a small, connected community. The atmosphere was warm and collaborative from the start. Soledad opened the day with a ‘check-in’ session to be sure that everyone was feeling engaged and benefitting from the experience. She did this in a fun a way. Fiori summed up the experience of Day 1 and explained that the learning experience for Day2 had been designed around a special activity for WISE women. The activity included a walking experience and outdoor work. The purpose of this was to walk in silence and deeply reflect on individual ideas, feelings, needs and wants. As Werner Herzog notes ‘the world reveals itself to those who walk’. WISE women walked 30 minutes to the beautiful Venetian wells near Drapanos village, through the beautiful Cretan countryside, surrounded by olive trees, yellow Cretan clover and pink almond blossom. The WISE women were given their own space and time in nature to work with their own ideas in solitude.



Everyone enjoyed the Cretan clean air and nature



Everyone enjoyed the Cretan clean air and nature



Contemplation and reflection at the Venetian wells

After the engaging walk, women were ready to craft their ‘pitch’ for their enterprise idea and present it, as if presenting it to potential investors and supporters. As an energizing change of learning location, this activity was conducted in the small and very friendly traditional Cretan tavern in Drapanos. The owner Leonidas, gave the 25 WISE guests, total use of his tavern and he made everyone very welcome. Even the personalized ‘ideas’ envelopes were stuck on the wall at the tavern and continued to be filled with useful suggestions and ideas from everyone. Leonidas served a most delicious lunch before the group walked back to ESA.


WISE f2f workshop takes over the taverna!



WISE f2f workshop takes over the taverna!

Once back at ESA, Soledad facilitated a ‘pro-action café’ activity, which helped WISE women to better understand the gaps of their project-ideas and build their next steps towards making their social enterprise vision a reality.


Wise ladies discussing


Contemplating and reevaluation

Day 2 experience ended with a presentation and inspiring insights by Dr. Cheruvelil’s projects with women in India. The atmosphere was full of feelings of motivation and empowerment.

Susse concluded the programme with a ceremony to anchor the participants’ visions and aspirations. Each person wrote their wish on a piece of paper and one by one they threw the paper on to the beautiful fire at the heart of the ESA building.

The closing ‘fire ceremony’ sealed the WISE entrepreneurial aims and visons

This relaxed closure was the perfect capping stone of an impactful 2-day social innovation workshop for women aspiring to become confident and resilient enough as to be able to materialize their business ideas in the realm of social innovation and beyond.

Sharon Jackson expressed her thanks to everyone. This ‘pilot’ of the WISE program is just the beginning, since ESA will continue to invite visionary people to take up the challenge of social innovation and sustainable business in a country (Greece) and at times when entrepreneurism is mostly needed.

“ESA is an achievement and an inspiration to us all, the WISE ladies and cohort. Thank you for the support.”
Pepy from Cyprus

Friday was a free night for everyone to enjoy some downtime, visiting Chania or the picturesque village communities around ESA, and having fun in their new friendships after an intensive 2-day shared experiential workshop.

Host your event at ESA     

Powered only by Cretan sunshine, ESA is a beautiful building rooted in the earth amongst ancient rocks and olive trees, surrounded by nature. Its construction is a leading example of sustainability in practice. ESA is an experiential and creative place where people feel enlivened, uplifted and creative. Great living and great learning happen at ESA. A perfect setting for:

Leading sustainable enterprise

Our passion is contributing towards co-created sustainable enterprise for positive impact on communities and the natural environment on a global scale. Leadership and entrepreneur issues of adaptation, resilience, authenticity, sustainable-self, values connected sense-making and the continued emancipation of women (WISE) to take up more leadership roles in the world are at the core of the ESA sustainability experience.

Make sense of sustainability

Crete is the sustainable destination of the past and of the future.

Home of the Minoans, one of the earliest civilisations on earth, nestled between Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Crete is rich with mythology, gastronomy, music, art and agriculture. You can have your own authentic experience of a sustainable lifestyle and feel first-hand the strong connection between nature and community.