I can hear you laughing already. You’re trying to launch a project in India in two weeks?
Good luck with that! Actually it’s a project that’s been in the pipeline for a few months now, but it’s all systems go for a pilot run in April next year.
Our idea is simple: provide university students with a different kind of international experience. Not one where they spend six weeks backpacking or stuck in classrooms, but project-building in international teams. Our vision is for an immersive three week experience where British students coming to India to undertake either a social business or innovation challenge. The business challenge will be to collaborative with local students to solve a specific business problem faced by a local social enterprise.
The innovation challenge will involve adapting an existing social innovation or technology (devised and owned by the University of Southampton) to India, and we have our preliminary sights on tackling a commercialized toilet made of recycled material as our first challenge. The hope is that these challenges will yield spin-out social enterprises or strengthen existing ones, so the camps will not be an ephemeral experience but a learning process with an identifiable legacy.
The camp is partly motivated by a desire to find social purposes for technology which is too often neglected because it won’t generate the multi-million pound spin-out that some will, but it is also driven by a desire to add value to existing social enterprises which often struggle for a fresh perspective. We want to unleash the creativity, empathy and lateral thought of our students; attributes which higher education as a whole has not prized, but which the world desperately needs.
The days when universities judged the value they add to students’ lives through the lens of disciplinary knowledge are vanishing fast. My hope is that through this camp we are sowing the seeds of a distinctive graduate experience which is characterised by human-centred problem solving rather than analysis in a vacuum.
I’ll keep you updated on my progress over the next few weeks. Wish me luck!