Have you ever traveled the United States in 2 days??? Well, I did.
You must be thinking that I am joking but it’s true, last April 4th, 2018 I had a wonderful opportunity to travel to Boston from Australia(Melbourne). So, this defines how I had traveled the whole of USA in 2 days. But to be precise by Air, as most of you have already guessed it.
Let’s begin the story of my journey…….
It was morning of 4th April 2018 when I traveled to Sydney from Melbourne where I met other friends who were travelling with me to Boston, Massachusetts. So, to be more precise, we traveled from Sydney to Los Angeles (which was the first international flight to the USA), Los Angeles to Atlanta and finally Atlanta to Boston. So, after 36 hours of whole flight and transit time we reached Boston on 4th April 2018. So, that was the day when I had a wonderful time to same date in multiple zones.
Brief about Ashoka U:
5 staff members and 5 students including myself out of 114 applicants from Central Queensland University (CQUniversity)were selected and sponsored with Flight, Accommodation , Hotel and the Tickets to attend the most awaited and rewarded program ‘ Ashoka U Exchange 2018’ in Boston from the dates 4th April to 7th April 2018. Altogether there were 22 attendees from CQUniversity, Australia including Vice Chancellor Scott Boman , Associate Vice Chancellor of Melbourne , staffs and students. Another main highlight is, CQUniversity Australia is the only university from Australia with Ashoka U Changemaker Campus Designation
Source: Scott Bowman
What is Ashoka U?
AshokaU is the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs and change makers. Ashoka U takes an institutional change approach to impact the education of millions of students. They collaborate with colleges and universities to break down barriers to institutional change and foster a campus-wide culture of social innovation.
What is Ashoka U Exchange 2018?
Ashoka U Exchange 2018 was organised by Ashoka U and was co hosted by Babson College. The event lasted for 3 days starting from 5th April – 7th April 2018 in Sheraton Hotel, Boston. There were 40 institutions from all over the United States and Australia( CQUniversity only) with designation of Ashoka U Changemaker Campus. It was the largest international conference where university professionals , policy makers , staff and students were gathered to share how their institutions where practicing social innovation in higher education and how they are working with the students to make them a change maker. The conference was for three days and each day started with a key note and followed by breakout sessions where one attendee could choose from 10 sessions for 2 hours ( for instance: between 11:00 am – 12:30 pm there would be 10 sessions where attendees could choose to attend anyone as per their interest).
More Details on : http://ashokau.org/exchange/
Day 1 :
The first day of conference started with the Welcome speech by Beeta Ansari who is the COO & Director of Exchange & Commons , Ashoka U and Marla M Capozzi who is the Chair of Board of Trustees , Babson College. Following this, Founder of Ashoka U , Bill Drayton gave an brief introduction of Ashoka U, its values and highlighted how we human are at the turning point of innovation between old system and new findings.
After the welcome speech Aneel Chima (Associate Degree of the Division of Health & Human Performance, gave an introduction speech focusing on the purpose of human life and highlighted how change making and inner well being were necessarily connected. He raised questions such as ‘ What is our sense of purpose?’ and ‘Why invest on social innovation?’.
This session was followed by panel discussion where Vishnu Swaminathan was the moderator and the guest panels were Mary Watson, Pamela Gillies, Janet Moore and Wray Trwin.
Session 1: Panel Discussion:
Some of the extracts from the panel discussion:
Wray Trwin said that employers are looking for technical diversity and collaborative learning.
Mary Watson beautifully discussed on how to balance financial difficulty and social innovation as a Change maker.
Pamela Gillies highlighted how baby steps can help achieve the importance of collaboration.
Janet Moore highlighted how she enjoyed connection with nature during summer camp but was not satisfied when she had to sit in lectures within four walls and wanted to change the traditional classroom structure.
The panel of discussion was followed by breakout sessions where we had options to choose from sessions such as big idea talks, site visits, workshops , best practice and networking sessions. Out of all these I chose site visit to Haley House Bakery Cafe.
Session 2: Site Visit to Haley House Bakery Cafe:
Haley House Bakery Cafe in Boston was a perfect example of social innovation practice. It was started by a man and woman who use to feed the homeless people and now it stands as a cafe which provides training and job opportunities to people transitioning out of incarceration. It is a non profit cafe which collaborates and partners with organisation in community to help the community and organizes Slam Poetry and movie nights . This visit was the highlight of the conference where 25 other attendees got an opportunity to hear from the general manager and volunteers about how they are working to solve issues of food security, well being and social justice. Participants of this site visit had an opportunity to taste delicious food by the amazing staff in Haley House.
Session 3: Speaking Race to Power for Multicultural Collaboration:
For the third session I attended a workshop that discussed how a person could really understand people from different backgrounds. The speaker also highlighted that innovation happens in marginalized community. The workshop ended with a practice session where participants were grouped in 3 and were asked to work on the question ” How can we CALL IN to make a systematic change?” . The participants in this workshop at last learned to deliver suggestions to leverage relationships by making aware of the context of issue, being empathetic and collaborating with others which was greatest take away from the workshop.
Session 4 : Big Idea Talks:
The last session of Day 1 was Big Idea Talks where the speakers such as Jennifer Bailey, Michele Pistone, Meenu Singh and Fiona Wilson shared their journey to becoming a change maker and how they are solving social issues by using social innovation. Some highlights of this sessions by the speakers are as follows:
Michele Pistone defined ‘ Social Entrepreneurism” as giving people chance to change other people’s issues. She also highlighted how volunteers used online education system about Immigration Law to help the immigrants who could not afford lawyers and who did not have much information to present there innocents against the judges.
Jennifer Bailey spoke about Human Genome Mapping where she highlighted how micro mapping system was being used to help visually impaired people to use GPS.
Wilson Fiona discussed how franchising opportunity given by the big Fast food industry such as McDonalds has provided the opportunity for people to open up their own start up without having to start from scratch.
Meenu Singh shared her experience working with people who had autistic and how they worked together to develop a mode of language through letters.
After a long day of informativw sessions, some of my friends and I went to eat some delicious Chinese dinner near our hotel and went back to sleep preparing ourselves for exciting Day 2.
Day 2 started with Changemaker Campus Designation Ceremony where 9 universities were awarded with Ashoka U Designation. It was followed by four key note speakers who were Fagan Harris, Sarah Hemminger, Imran Khan and Casey Woods and who discussed on ” Is Empathy Dead?“.
Session 1: Is Empathy Dead?
Imran Khan shared story of a High School where he taught, where 29 students were shot After this incident the students of the school did not go out of their community which caused social isolation in students and many did not even go out of their home. So Imran took the students out and felt their behavior changing. The main take away is recognizing hero of all corner of city could be helpful like finding a change maker, education system should be human to human scale and learning happen in human interaction.
Sarah Hemminger discussed about Building community and family with strangers for mental health , diversity and cross collectiveness. And gave a reflection of here attachment to a friend of her.
Fagan Harris highlighted Not to fall in love with the solution but find problem to solve.
Casey Woods spoke on Learning to agree on what we disagree.
Session 2: Break out sessions:
In the first break out session I went to the workshop’ Moving beyond Theory & Passion: Teaching the skills social entrepreneurs are missing’. The speakers of this sessions were Cathy Clark, Jay Friedlander, Kathleen Janus and Anke Wessels.
Some highlights from the session:
Kathleen Janus said it is good to learn from an established organisation before building one.She also added testing innovation, measuring impact, fund raising and story telling are powerful tools for social enterprise.
Cathy Clark explained about SCALING IMPACT and debt financing tools. She also discussed on the importance of long term sustainable fund and relationship of corporation with CSR.
Anke Wessels discussed about importance of system change for social impact and mind mapping in students.
The sessions ended with Jay Friedlander’s highlights of about Hatchery, an online educational course about social entrepreneurship.
Session 3: Diagnosis to the Resisting to Change Syndrome:
This workshop was one of my best workshops that I attended. It focused on following questions:
a. How to deal with change?
b. How is change affecting you?
c. How to identify people who resist change?
Dida and Kendal K. Whitlock were two facilitators who said that we human were living in exponential times where speed of change is affecting our life and we need to embody the change through new mindsets and by valuing innovation. It was interactive session with wonderful exercises for the attendees.
Day 2 ended all well. The attendees were awestruck by the content delivery and interactive sessions in the workshops. During the dinner after a long hours of knowledge building sessions, the attendees were sharing their highlights of the sessions they had attend and I would feel like I should have attend other sessions too however, I would not want to miss the session I had been to ask well. It was really good to hear change makers speak about their journey or workshops were they demonstrated on how to become one.
The final day of Ashoka U Exchange started with breakout sessions where I attended Change making Design Studio.
Final Session: Change making Design Studio:
Changemaking Design Studio focused on Meaningful Life Design. Speakers discussed about the power of story telling and two types of story telling such as redemption and contamination. Christopher Michealson discussed about performance with purpose and Mira Azarm facilitated a session where participants were group in 2 and were asked to exercise self-reflection interview which consisted heart mapping and head mapping and lighting round synthesis and lastly were asked to draft a fearless mission statement.
The final day of the Ashoka U Exchange 2018 ended with a key note from Aneel Chima. He discussed about emotional well being, psychological well being, social well being and contemplative well being. He concluded by saying that Anchor is purpose to create meaningful well being.
After three wonderful and informative conference I packed my bags to fly back to Melbourne. The whole experience was beyond expectation. It was a great opportunity to network with people from different parts of the world with similar mindset about becoming a change maker. I still cherish all the knowledge I have gained through out the conference and I am glad I was part of the wonderful Ashoka U Exchange 2018 and I am thankful for this opportunity given by CQuniversity Australia.
Bye bye Boston………..
I could write pages about my experience in Boston but I have tried to shrink the length so it is easy to have a quick overview of my experience. If readers have any questions, suggestions or want to talk to me more about this exchange I am happy to share my words and notes.