Ben Keene – Impact Entrepreneur & Keynote Speaker
From an island in Fiji, via the beaches of West Africa, to the dairy farms of Dorset, Ben has spent 20 years exploring how to make a positive impact through building startups, communities and adventures.
Ben has helped 100s of people and organisations do work that matters to them (& the world) – whether that’s through starting an impact business, building an exciting career, or growing a purposeful community.
Part One: Tribewanted
On January 14, 2006, Ben Keene received an email that changed his life. The weather outside was rainy, windy, and freezing and Keene was holed up in his loft office, the window fogged with mist. He had just taken a sip of hot tea when the message popped up, and Keene did a double take at the subject line: “A TRIBE IS WANTED” National Geographic
The idea behind Tribewanted was to recruit a group of similar people online before heading to the Fijian Island of Vorovoro to build a sustainable community alongside the local indigenous tribe.
The idea was swept along with a flood of interest, and the island lease was secured, and the virtual community sprung to life. All major decisions on the island are voted on by an online tribe that anyone around the world could join.
Tribewanted had to quickly overcome multiple challenges including a fire sweeping through the island in week one of the project, a military coup, and a tropical cyclone threatened to wipe out the emerging village. Online disagreements also made decision making hard and pushed the project to the edge.
The project survived, and for a while, thrived. Ben spent 10 years on Tribewanted: building crowdfunded sustainable-tourism villages on an island in Fiji (which was turned into a 5 part BBC series and book and invested over $3m into the local region), a beach in Sierra Leone (from ‘Blood Diamonds to Beach Football’) and a farm in Umbria (think River Cottage but with homemade pasta, olive oil and red wine).
Part Two: Escape the City
In 2010 Ben spoke in a Soho nightclub to 600 drunk bankers at the launch of ‘Escape the City’ – a new organisation aiming to help Two good things came from that event – a new role helping build ‘The Escape School’ to support ‘escapees’ make the transition from unfulfilling corporate careers to something new, and he met his wife (not a drunk banker). Over the next 5 years the Escape team built two curriculums and led 1000s of people through 3 month part-time evening and weekend ‘accelerator’ programmes. Ben personally led 10 ‘startup accelerators’ and is in close contact with many escapee projects.
Alongside Escape the City, Ben worked with a sports development project, Right to Dream, which has grown into the most successful football academy for boys and girls in Africa. This led to helping host the Ghanaian Paralympic team from Right to Dream at London 2012. Ben also joined THNK: School of Creative Leadership, as a way to connect with other impact entrepreneurs from around the world.
Part three: Rebel Book Club
Soon after Ben’s daughter was born, he and his wife headed to Bali to set-up an impact startup retreat. Over a green juice in a bamboo co-working space in the monkey forest he started Rebel Book Club with a friend, to help solve the problem of what the Japanese call ‘Tsundoku’ – the growing pile of unread books on your bedside table (or, kindle).
Rebel Book Club is now a global community of paying subscribers who, every month, read one non-fiction book together, meet and, over a book-inspired cocktail, discuss it and see how they can apply its lessons in their lives.
Alongside Rebel Book Club, Ben continues to support first-time entrepreneurs at Escape the City, Virgin Startup & THNK.
Ben’s goal is to move his work to be 100% ‘earth focused’ within the next few years, to do the best he can to tackle the climate and ecological crises through education and community, in the most creative, fun way possible.
SPEAKING, HOSTING & WORKSHOPS
Ben is a popular choice of speaker sharing stories about how to build a career or business around your passion whilst tackling problems you care about – whatever your age or background.
His journey shows how you can turn a passion into a job, a way of life and so much more. A truly inspirational speaker.
“Everyone found Ben’s session and presence inspirational.”
— Dame Jo Williams DBE, Chief Executive, Mencap
“Ben Keene gave one of the best presentations I have ever seen on the ideas behind Tribewanted.”
— David McQueen, Speaker, Entrepreneur, TV Presenter
“The best speech at the conference by a mile.”
— Chris Cramer, ex-President CNN International
“Brilliant talk, brilliant structure, utterly relevant, captivated the students.”
— Malvern College