Pushing Past Success with the First Movers Fellowship

Levi Strauss & Co.
June 21, 2017

What do you do when faced with success – rest on your jeans, or keep pushing forward?

For Becca Prowda, director of community affairs at Levi Strauss & Co., the answer is straightforward: You keep digging deeper in pursuit of the next “big unlock.”

Today, Becca was named a First Movers Fellow by the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program. These individuals, known as intrapreneurs, are working within their companies to help solve the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges.

First Movers is the leading global network of intrapreneurs. The program equips Fellows with the skills and confidence to drive innovations inside companies that add value to the business while positively impacting the lives of consumers, employees and communities around the world.

“The curriculum we offer inspires bold thinking and helps Fellows build momentum for change,” said Nancy McGaw, creator and director of the First Movers Fellowship Program. “We are proud to welcome these talented individuals into the First Movers community, a network which now includes over 170 Fellows all over the globe.”

Becca plans to use the opportunity to explore the lessons she learned from the first year of the LS&Co. Collaboratory – a program that brings together emerging apparel entrepreneurs to help them hatch ideas around a specific sustainability challenge. In the program’s first year, participants explored the issue of water and proposed solutions for reducing their own organization’s water impact.

LS&Co. is well known for its sustainability efforts, and is involved in a number of apparel industry coalitions to drive change. The Collaboratory took a different approach – it wasn’t about teaming up with the “big guys,” it was about joining forces with much smaller companies and organizations committed to LS&Co.’s profits through principles approach to business.

“The idea is that because they are smaller, our Collaboratory fellows have greater agility and might be able to put solutions into action far faster than a company at the scale of LS&Co.,” Becca said. Collaboration like this gives established companies an opportunity to learn valuable lessons from the process and solutions incubated by the smaller organizations.

The hard work to get the Collaboratory off the ground paid off with value delivered to program participants, mentors and LS&Co. communities through the expertise shared at the Workshop Weekend, new relationships and funding supporting projects that are currently underway.

“When you have a program that was well-received, you have a choice: Do you go on auto pilot, because it worked the first time – or do you lean in to the momentum to make another big leap forward?” Becca said.

With the First Movers Fellowship, Becca decided it was time to keep pushing ahead. During her time in the program, she will evaluate the Collaboratory’s initial impact and form recommendations to increase the ROI of the second class.

The First Movers Fellowship provides an invaluable chance to learn from and work with smart and passionate people across different industries, Becca said. “It requires you to challenge your assumptions, question what you know and go beyond status-quo thinking – and it brings the potential for big breakthroughs, rather than incremental change.”

Becca isn’t the first LS&Co. employee to be recognized by the Aspen Institute for their ability to drive change by channeling their passion and creativity into helping the company marry profits with principles. Anna Walker, senior director of global policy and advocacy, Bart Sights, vice president of technical innovation, and Paul Dillinger, head of global product innovation, have all been First Movers in past years.