See One. Do One. Teach One.

You know the expression, ‘See One. Do One. Teach One’?

In a medical context the saying always weirded me out a bit. (Like, really? You’re going to stick me with that needle only after seeing it done by someone else a time or two?) But, funny enough, over the last couple of weeks I’ve found a new meaning in this expression, and it has to do with the teaching part.

First, an admission: I really like leading workshops. I may not be a complete extrovert, but leading a workshop – facilitating discussions, working through challenges, seeing lightbulbs igniting over people’s heads and post-its flying in the air – is a guaranteed path to my own personal happy place. At IDEO I had the opportunity to run a number of client workshops on various parts of the OpenIDEO challenge process. Each time I ran a workshop I got a bit smarter, a bit more adept at addressing tricky questions or common hurdles, and a bit savvier at structuring the day so it was fun and productive. Which means that over time I developed a tried and true method for bringing clients through the OpenIDEO process – and I loved it.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when I had the opportunity to lead a half-day design thinking and innovation workshop at the National Archives. Knowing that I’m a workshop person, of course I quickly jumped at the chance – even after I remembered that I’d need to create all my slides and accompanying materials from scratch (since I didn’t have anything from my IDEO days). This, I thought to myself, will be a lot of work. So I sat down and started on my deck.

And it turns out yes, it was a lot of work. But, so much more importantly, it was an opportunity for me to actually learn the content I was teaching. What I realized is that when I was leading OpenIDEO challenges, or even talking with clients about IDEO’s approach to design thinking and innovation, I was representing IDEO – using their stories and their content. Teaching the design thinking approach to a new audience and doing it in my own voice and with my own language really, truly helped me learn it, internalize it, and then share it in ways that I knew would resonate with my audience.

Creating something from scratch – even something that I thought I knew well – pushed me to understand my content more fully and engage with it more deeply. Getting my hands dirty through doing? Awesome.

I spent the next 24 hours after the workshop buzzing with the knowledge that I had just learned and practiced something new and important…and it felt really good. And, in that halo glow of those 24 hours, I actually got offered an opportunity to run the session again, this time for different clients. So I got back on the horse, reopened my slide deck, and set about recreating the wheel.

One week later, I stepped in front of another new audience to teach them what I know. This time around, like the session a week earlier, I didn’t have all the right answers prepped in advance. I didn’t have the best tips for overcoming hurdles on instant recall. Nor did I instinctively know the smartest ways to diffuse a difficult conversation.

Teaching something from scratch – even when it felt untested or uncharted – pushed me to open myself up to even more learning in the moment and to make small course-corrections throughout. Being able to respond to the needs of the room, as they arise? Even more awesome.

And in the process, I experienced the value of learning as I was doing, of challenging myself to know something inside and out through the act of teaching it to others.

See One. Do One. Teach One. I still don’t love it for needles! But in my own work? I’m onboard.

Taking a Seat at an Uncommon Table

community-developmentLike any donor, corporate philanthropy departments today want to know that their investments in their community have an impact. It’s not about altruism (although giving back does feel good); instead, it’s about driving long-term, lasting change. This was the topic at hand during today's breakout session, “A Seat at the UnCommon Table: Leveraging your Philanthropic Investments in Educationas part of the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship Conference.

Cheryl Kiser, managing director of The Lewis Initiative, Babson College and moderator of the panel opened our talk with the recent discovery of a worrying trend:

For over 25 years, corporate philanthropy professionals had indicated that their #1 funding and volunteer priority was education. In the last two years, however, Cheryl noticed in surveys of the field that corporate philanthropy departments were suffering from what she called the “3 F’s”:

They were Frustrated, they felt Fatigued, and they worried that they had Failed in their attempts to truly invest in educational systems and drive progress.

The purpose of the session, then, was to leverage what Cheryl called “The Uncommon Table” – in essence a platform in which participants could go beyond the static idea-sharing common within homogenous sectors or industries and instead participate in “uncommon conversations with unusual suspects.” After all, she reasoned, “no one company can go it alone.”

To do this, Cheryl was joined by a group of terrific and highly knowledgeable panelists:

Together, Cheryl and the panelists opened themselves up to questions from the audience in what was an informal and informative discussion on the state of the U.S. Education System and how corporate funders can get involved. A few takeaways are worth sharing:

One attendee asked a question that seemed to resonate throughout the room: “If we’re supposed to help fix American education, shouldn’t we know (and agree on) what’s broken?”

While all panelists had opinions on just what’s wrong, Suzanne from the Department of Education boiled it down to four problem areas:

  1. Human Capital (both supporting educators and administrators, as well as making school relevant to students);
  2. Information and data systems (to track, measure, and strategize);
  3. Different state standards and assessment tools to tracking student performance
  4. Low performing schools that consistently underperform without being reformed.

Interestingly, one panelist suggested that in order to tackle these problems, business should look at its core competencies and the areas in which it has the most credibility. Many of the areas in which business excels – management training, information systems, data analysis, etc – are the areas that schools need the most help with. Given this, Lydia encouraged the audience to consider how their corporate investments in education were aligned with these four areas – if they’re not aligned, she suggested, companies would do well to refocus.

Other relevant conversation points included how companies can drive innovation through partnerships and grant proposals with the Department of Education (who, by the way, is putting an incredible amount of stimulus funding innovation and reform in education), as well as what other countries are doing to support their educational systems as they grow, develop, and eventually surpass the U.S. in the rankings.

In all, the session provided a thoughtful look at the multiple, challenging issues that corporate funders and schools face as they partner to effect change in our educational system. Hopefully this will be the start of more informal “Uncommon Tables” throughout the U.S. as attendees go back to their home offices and share what they learned.

Ashley’s Note: This is the second of three posts I wrote as a featured blogger for The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship’s 2010 Annual Conference. Click these links to learn more about the conference, check out the session description, and to read all the blog posts from the event.

Micro-Actions for Change

DUMP Week When it comes to the crisis of Global Warming (what author and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman says should actually be called "Global Weirding"), things can get pretty overwhelming fast.

Animal extinction, water scarcity, rainforest destruction – these are all pretty heavy topics requiring big picture thinking and action.

And if world governments can't even build consensus to take action, how can we as individuals ever expect to make a difference?

Well, I'm here to say: Don't Get Discouraged.

Sure, many of these issues can only be solved through global coalitions that unite for a common purpose (and boy, does that sound like hard work!).

Nonetheless, it's important to remember that even big problems can be helped through small “micro-actions".

Take, for example, what happened just a few weeks ago at my own business school. The Boston University chapter of Net Impact organized something called “D.U.M.P. Week” (aka: Don’t Use More Plastic).

In essence, D.U.M.P. Week was about rallying the internal community to consider how their everyday choices – in this case, using plastic bottles – impact the world around them.

During each day of the promotion, members of the Net Impact board set up shop in the graduate student lounge to educate and connect with students around the topic of sustainability. Through tidbits and facts written on poster board, an informational video showing the impact that plastic has on the Earth, and fun contests and games, the chapter leaders were able to successfully and effectively get the student body engaged in sustainability in a very personal and on-the-ground way.

In addition to education, the organizers of D.U.M.P. Week asked students to consider signing a sustainability pledge that outlined a set of behaviors each student would agree to uphold. These included:

  1. Power Down Computers
  2. Bring Your Own Mug and Water Bottle
  3. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
  4. Think Before Your Print
  5. Use Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
  6. Turn Off the Lights
  7. Take Shorter Showers
  8. Carry a Reusable Shopping Bag
  9. Walk More, Drive Less
  10. Wash Laundry in Cold Water

In exchange for signing the pledge, each student received his or her very own reusable water bottle (not plastic!) to kick-start these new behaviors.

Water Bottles

So why was D.U.M.P. Week so successful? In many ways, it serves as a real-life example of everything I'm learning in my marketing classes:

You can always grab people's attention with big ideas, questions, even images. But until you tell consumers why it matters to them, you're missing your opportunity to connect, engage and inspire action.

D.U.M.P. Week wasn't just about scary doomsday scenarios or cold environmental terminology; it was about inspiring our community to connect, learn, and take action in easy and understandable ways.

As I waited in line to sign the pledge myself, I couldn’t help but feel excited by this small yet motivated demonstration of commitment by my fellow students (who, by the way, are still using their water bottles weeks later).

On their own, these behavior changes may seem like a drop in the bucket – but taken together they represent a collective, united plan of action that can and will have meaningful impact.

When it comes to sustainability, every bit (or micro-action) counts.

I encourage you to think about what micro-actions you could take to help move us toward a more sustainable planet.

And, if you’re looking for other examples of micro-change, check out Cindy Gallop and Cindy and her team (who I first learned about at The Feast) have created a crowd-sourcing platform for people to declare the actions (big and small) that they would take if they ran the world. Even better, the platform lets you share your idea with others and activate your network to get involved. Definitely worth checking out.

A TED Wish: Teach Every Child About Food

Jamie OliverAnyone who knows me knows that food is a big part of my life - learning about it, talking about it, and especially eating it! I've written about my interest in food in past posts, and today I came across a recent TED talk about food that I thought was worth sharing.

First, for those of you who don't know, TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a non-profit "devoted to ideas worth sharing".

Every year TED organizes a conference that showcases truly outstanding collections of today's greatest thinkers, scientists, artists, activists and changemakers doing great things in the world. And the best part is that after each conference, TED posts these talks on its website so that everyone can learn and participate in the idea-sharing.

In addition to showcasing these incredibly diverse, passionate and articulate speakers - and this year's list is no exception - TED hands out an annual TED Prize. The goal of this Prize is to grant someone's "One Wish to Change the World". In addition to $100,000 in seed money, the TED Prize winner gets the chance to pitch his or her wish in front of the conference's incredible collection of attendees - with the purpose of inspiring the audience to act.

TED's goal, then, is to harness the power of its network to inspire collaboration on some of the world's most important and pressing problems.

The 2010 TED Prize winner is Jamie Oliver, a well-known British chef who's launched a campaign called Jamie's Food Revolution. Jamie's wish is this:

I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.

To learn more about the problem that Jamie sees, and the solution he proposes, check out this video.


Congratulations Jamie, and good luck!

Cultivating Change with Youth

One of my goals for The Changebase is to use the blog as a platform for sharing the stories of companies, organizations and people working to create change in their communities. After all, there are lots of examples of great progress being made in CSR, social enterprise, and philanthropy and they should be celebrated! This time around, I'm pleased to share the story of Christine Guardia and her work with KooDooZ.

I hope, after reading Christine's post, you'll be inspired to find your own "life balance of Heart, Mind, Body and Spirit"!

By Christine GuardiaChristine Guardia

We live in a world defined by change – change grabs the headlines and demands our attention.  Our access to information has been heightened with globalization and, as a result, it has further mobilized our communities for change. 

The concept of leveraging social media for social good resonates with me, because that’s what I do for a living.  I am the “cause cultivator” for KooDooZ, a “cause-based” social networking site for youth.  In this role, I cultivate non-profit and for-profit partnerships for the purpose of co-creating and co-marketing real-world events and social impact campaigns.KooDooZThe site’s purpose is to provide KDZ (our users, typically ages 9 through 15) with a safe place online to channel their passions into actions and strategies for social change and personal growth.  For the benefit of our non-profit and for-profit partners, KooDooZ provides event and social impact expertise, delivering collaborative real-world events (such as the Tour De Fitness) and online challenges (such as coat drives) to nurture new youth and family engagement.

Despite the fact this generation (Gen Z) is altruistic and cause-centric, their access to opportunities to “create change” has traditionally been limited.  So far, there have been unequal opportunities for civic engagement before the age of twenty.  By challenging themselves with service learning, volunteerism and personal growth opportunities, KooDooZ KDZ learn outside the boundaries of formal education.  Our technology allows them to access information and craft their own identities in unprecedented ways.

Because kids need a higher diversity of ways to engage as social entrepreneurs, KooDooZ challenges KDZ to find their life balance of Heart, Mind, Body and Spirit.  I decided to do the same; since wEcoUsable Water Bottleorking for KooDooZ, I have been inspired by ChicoBag to stop using plastic shopping bags and switch to reusable bags.  The “Bag Monster,” a person covered in 500 bags (the average number of plastic bags an American uses each year), made me realize I needed to make a change.  Now reusable bags are strategically placed in my car, at my office and near the front door. 

I also carry EcoUsable’s BPA-free stainless steel filtered water bottle, which further reduces my dependency on plastics.  EcoUsable provided stainless steel bottles to the Tour de Fitness (TDF  ’09) participants and also sponsored a challenge within KooDooZ asking KDZ to come up with their own images of sustainability.  The winning bottle design will be produced by EcoUsable and sold via KooDooZ.  In addition, for every bottle sold, the winner will receive $1 and KidShape, a non-profit organization that builds healthy families, will also receive $1. 

The KooDooZ website is currently in Alpha release and this spring we will be launching a pilot program for groups of kids (siblings, classmates, teammates, etc.) and the adults in their lives (parents/guardians, teachers, coaches, etc.) to be some of the first KooDooZ users and provide feedback to help shape the system.  Our goal is to partner with schools, nonprofits and/or companies that would like to help children create change. 

If you would like to utilize KooDooZ to challenge KDZ to achieve in 2010, please contact us at   Christine Guardia is a graduate of the Public & Nonprofit Management Program at Boston University School of Management. In her free time, Christine enjoys spending time with her eight nieces and nephews, walking (she is currently training for an 18-mile fundraising walk this summer) and reading.