So many of us have observed children excited for their first day of school. Three months later, these children who once could not be happier to be attending school, are now being dragged to school by their parents. For most people, our most profound educational experiences rarely happen within the classroom. In fact, most of our educational experiences usually involve some sort of kicking, screaming and dragging.
In some circles, it is almost a closed discussion to say that educational systems do a poor job fostering creativity, innovation, leadership and a spirit of inquiry. Much of the focus is often placed on the top percentile, “the gifted”. An interesting question to ask might be.
How do we create learning environments that provide participants with the skills to create new possibilities for our future?
Instead of joining the intense debate about how educational systems do a poor job at teaching “Skills for the 21st Century”. We developed a program that had nothing to do with the current educational system. In the first year, the studio focused on boys only, since then we have changed the program to be coed.
When we first dreamt up the idea of the Agents of Change – Big Ideas Summer Studio, we had no idea we could make it a reality. We also did not know the kind of support we would get from our community and friends. Somehow, and with support from those around us, the program as grown and evolved over the past three years. Support has often come from very surprising places. For example, in the first year Social Innovation Generation Waterloo sent a staff member to Trinidad and Tobago if we were able to cover their airfare and accommodation. Another example has been our partnership with Schools Without Borders (SWB). SWB has supported the program by donating airmiles for our facilitators to travel to Trinidad and Tobago. SWB is not a newcomer to the space of education outside of the classroom, they have been pioneering this kind of alternative education for almost 10 years. Similar, both Republic Bank and BG Group have been early sponsors of the project. Both sponsors are committed to developing social programming that is geared towards tangible outcomes.
Recently, I watched a TED Talk by Fred Swaniker. In the talk, Fred talks about how poor leadership in Africa is a lot more detrimental than poor leadership in countries that have strong institutions. One example he gave was that in countries like the United States a president cannot decide to just print more money. There are too many strong institutions to prevent the president from making this decision. It is not a far stretch to thinking of similarities between African countries and the caribbean countries. Swaniker’s main point was the poor leadership in countries with weak institutions, like caribbean countries, can break a country. So what can we do to develop better leaders in the caribbean. The Agents of Change project is first step towards this and having already developed a curriculum it would not be difficult to scale our existing program into a full institute.
So maybe it is time to start thinking big.
What if we could create a non-academic space that would foster the Leaders of tomorrow at the “Leadership Institute of the Caribbean? Now this place doesn’t exist yet, but what if it did? How could we make this happen? Who would be interested in funding the next generation of caribbean leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers? What if we supported 100 young leaders from a variety of backgrounds like, Art, Music, Medicine, Technology, Finance or Law through a leadership program that is informed by a creativity, inquiry and entrepreneurship curriculum? What if this program focused on fostering mechanisms for deep collaboration so participants had the skills to collaborate to work with people who from very different disciplines, industries or environments from their own.
While we ponder and plot about this dream, below is a video of our most recent prototype of what a mini version of what the “Leadership Institute of the Caribbean might look like.[yframe url=’https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4mLZLxeYoM&feature=youtu.be’]
Some of the people who have helped make this project a success thus far Anita Abraham, Chevonne Agana, Dennise Demming, Jeremy Dickstein, and Latoya Webster.
Photo Credit: Marlon James