Imagine being invited to a gathering with 30 of the most interesting people of all ages in one of the most beautiful, most remote areas in the Caribbean; Necker Island, Richard Branson’s home.
At the time I attended Virgin Unite’s Leadership Gathering I had recently lost my mum, gone through a divorce and become a newly single mum with two young boys.
Virgin Unite, Communities trip, Ellie Kanner, lemur
I had no idea what a leadership gathering was, but I wasn’t going to say no to five days in paradise – I direct movies and television for a living and was hoping I could find an inspiring story to cover during the trip.
And I’m really glad I went. Necker Island is stunning; the crystal clear blue ocean, perfect weather and wonderful people, it was all beyond my expectations. You really do have to see it to believe it.
After sitting in a few sessions with people who were actually making a difference in the world – whether they spent their life protecting the oceans, helping Africans become entrepreneurs or making T-shirt’s that spread optimism – I was completely inspired by how they were all leveraging their influence for good. And then there was me. I looked hard for a movie angle but nothing came to me. I felt like I didn’t belong there. How was I going to make the world a better place?
Virgin Unite, Communities trip, Ellie Kanner, session
And that’s when I remembered that years before, when my boys were in preschool, I had come up with an idea for a new board game for us to play together. They were totally bored with the games we played over and over again and I had been eager to help them practice their spelling and writing.
After we played this made-up game for hours, I brought it to my friend Lisa Solomon – a former CNN news producer – who had kids the same age as mine, at the same school. She suggested that I add information about safety and agreed to be my partner; it became our safety skills game. We worked on it for a few years and then, as often happens, got distracted with our busy lives.
Five years later, and I suddenly realised this was exactly why I was on Necker. I brought this to the next session and people responded really positively. They asked a lot of great questions and I knew there were no products like it on the market. That’s when I decided that we were able to make a difference with this game.
In just a few months following the gathering, Lisa and I created a prototype and I was invited back to Necker to bring the newly developed game and get feedback. It was invaluable and helped us expand the game even more to include social skills.
Lisa and I then met Lyn Lord who is an educator and avid supporter of games in classrooms. She was the final piece of the puzzle because she showed us the importance of getting this game not only into homes but also into classrooms. Now, we are finally launching the Game Plan Game.
We have a website, where educators can order a downloadable version for classrooms and we offer anyone the opportunity to gift a game to another school free of charge. We also offer a physical hard copy version which will be available to purchase from our site in July. Thanks to Virgin Unite for inviting me to a place of inspiration and allowing me the opportunity to find my own way to try to make a difference in the world.