Higher education heretic, social innovation junkie, Arsenal saddo.
It’s unsurprising that the things we fight hardest for mean the most to us. For four years I harboured the dream of bringing students to Mumbai to learn from the city and its social innovators.
We finally delivered the Spark India 2016 camp in Mumbai this year, and with a greater emphasis on leadership development than on any of our previous programmes, realising just how important it is for our fellows reflect on their core skillsets so that they’re able to better understand the “me-shaped” holes in the social impact landscape.
Reflecting on this year’s programme, three lessons are the most striking:
Learning gain is hard to measure, but we need to try. Spark India provided two journeys for each of our fellows: an outer journey where students contributed to the social impact of an existing social venture, and an inner journey where students developed and tested skillsets. We used Open Badges for this purpose, awarding each Fellow badges when they had gathered evidence of their accomplishment in a given area of skills development.
Getting students to choose their own forms of evidence of skills gain was a critical part of this process, legitimising their progress to themselves and offering a bank of material to use when they needed to.
Growth mindsets are essential to any fellowship programme. The one lesson I’ve learnt in recruiting fellows is that outward markers of” talent”and experience are irrelevant if not combined with a desire for self-improvement and open-mindedness. Since It’s also true that sometimes self-improvers are not open-minded (and vice versa), due diligence during the recruitment process is vital.
“The strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack”. Fellowship programmes are fundamentally only as strong as the group A cohort of outstanding individuals does not, ipso facto, make a valuable fellowship. Fellowships should be for life, not a four week programme, so spend time cultivating the group dynamic, and nurture a diversity of leadership styles. It also means recruiting carefully, finding a balance between choosing those who have the most to gain and those who have the most to offer.