Soccer Without Borders Founder, Ben Gucciardi recently shared his entrepreneurial journey with 37 students from his alma mater (Lehigh University) as part of an all-virtual: Student Idea Accelerator. A key component to Lehigh's Inspire/Aspire Speaker Series, the accelerator was hosted by the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Creativity.
Soccer Without Borders has come a long way since Gucciardi first conceptualized the idea as a Lehigh student in 2006. Soon after launching the first programs and camps, he teamed up with fellow Lehigh alum and current SWB Executive Director Mary Connor–together they have helped guide SWB programs to reach thousands of young people across the world, tackling inequalities that exist on and off the pitch for girls and refugee and immigrant youth. In recent years Gucciardi and SWB have been honored with numerous awards for the vital impact of SWB programs, including the 2015 White House Champion of Change for World Refugee Day, the 2017 FIFA Diversity Award, and the 2019 Lehigh University Public Service Award.
Along with his perspectives on social justice, leadership, and intentional choices, such as remaining in California and ceding leadership roles to others, Gucciardi shared a philosophy that guides his work with SWB staff: "How am I treating the people that I'm working with? How am I supporting them? How am I listening to them if I'm the person who's in a position of leadership? My responsibility is to them, to support them, and to make sure that they're included in the big decisions."
The Lehigh students in attendance were moved by Gucciardi's initiative in the field of social entrepreneurship and SWB's capacity to effectively adapt to the challenges of COVID-19. Renée Baran, Baker Institute Innovations Program Manager, described Gucciardi's conversation as, "nothing less than inspirational. He exemplifies what it means to not only do well, but also to do good in the world."
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