Workshop Promotes Innovation
Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 02:10
To preview the Center for Social Impact and Innovation, which is set to launch in the spring, students and alumni gathered Friday afternoon to stimulate creative problem-solving and generate innovative ideas about social change.
The workshop, “Ignite Georgetown,” was held in the Rafik B. Hariri Building as part of Homecoming’s Alumni College Day. Representatives from Atlas Corps, Teach for America and Food Recovery Network gave five-minute presentations outlining the goals of their organizations and identifying problems. Participants then broke into four groups and attempted to forge creative solutions to these problems.
“It’s too easy to think that we don’t know the answer, but when we push ourselves we find ways to think about those answers. We find ways to test those ideas and not get caught up in the fear that we might fail,” event organizer Sonal Shah, a professor of the practice in the Office of the Provost, said.
The event brought together individuals with diverse professional backgrounds and varying levels of experience in order to approach problems from many different perspectives.
For Ramona Dragomir, an Atlas Corps fellow from Romania, and Eduardo Salazar, an Atlas Corps fellow from Peru, the heterogeneity in viewpoints was especially valuable. Atlas Corps is a nonprofit that offers fellowships to promote innovation and develop leaders.
“We’re used to speaking to people that already work in the nonprofit sector and we’re just preaching to the choir when we talk about the program and our initiatives,” Dragomir said. “But here it was a little bit different because the people saw the problem from a different perspective than how people in our sector would see it.”
Ben Simon, founder and executive director of Food Recovery Network, also found the ideas discussed among participants to be extremely helpful. Food Recovery Network is a nonprofit that aims to fight both food waste and hunger by redistributing leftover food from college cafeterias to community members who need it.
“It’s not so often that we get a sounding board of 30 people to just bounce ideas off of and get brand new ideas,” Simon, who leads a staff of 12 members, said.
The seminar room in which the workshop was held was decorated to encourage creativity. Desks were covered with white paper on which participants were encouraged to doodle, take notes or jot down ideas using colorful markers.
Sean Lamont (MSB ’11) saw this exercise in creative problem-solving as a learning experience. Lamont recently founded a company that sells nutrition bars and was interested in learning how he could become more socially responsible, as well as hearing about the problems that other companies are facing.
“The vulnerability was huge for the companies to come here and to talk about their problems,” Lamont said. “It was a two-way street. We gave and they gave.”
Alejandro González (SFS ’12), a participant in the workshop, thought that this deviation from a more customary classroom experience was a step in the right direction for Georgetown.
“I think we [at Georgetown] are very good at traditional education, but we’re not good at these types of things,” González said. “We need to have more events like these that really push the envelope, take it to the edge, ignite, cause people to be dynamic and really change their ideas. This is the type of thinking that we need to bring to this college.”