Saturday, January 10, 2015

Potential Activities for the university based innovation centers

 This post is a continuation of the last post only and lists other activities/programs which an innovation center within a university could take up. 

  1. Innovative Communities: Such centers could try to promote building communities of students interested in innovations in different domains to become small think tanks at the campus and encourage informal peer-learning mechanisms. Facilitation support could be provided to get the selected ideas of these groups out in the public domain and to the intended beneficiaries. Here are few potential ideas for starting such communities:

a.      GeekVille: Community of computer programmers at campus willing to make amazing products and applications for fun
b.  Policy Analysis Group: Students gathering feedback through their research and experiences will analyze and discuss policy ideas for various issues of our society and political economy
c.     Robotics/Embedded systems: Electronics and robotics enthusiast trying to compete and build interesting prototypes for fun and learning
d.     Activism through Performing Arts: Community of students who produce street-plays, movies, etc for increasing public awareness on topics which either get ignored or are social taboos
e.   Social innovations group: Similar to policy analysis group but coming up with solutions which could be implemented by NGOs, political activists and social enterprises

2.      Responsible Citizenship Initiative: Students will be encouraged to think about and act upon their responsibilities towards the nation or humanity at large. They will be sensitized to the fact that they are fortunate enough to receive quality education and opportunities to be able to actually do something about the problems of our society. Center will help students plan and implement their ideas to demonstrate their capacity to think and do something about these intractable problems.

3.  Innovation Study Trips: Students will be provided regular opportunities to attend trips to companies, universities, research labs to interact with those who solve real-life problems. Similarly, longer experiential learning trips like village life immersion or slum experience would be organized to let students spend time to understand the challenges and problems faced by marginalized people.

4.    Portfolio Assistance: Similar to what design professionals do, students will be encouraged to build their portfolios during their stay. These portfolios would serve the purpose of showcasing students’ overall skill set and achievements. The center will help students access resources or people required to strengthen their portfolios. This includes building projects or proof-of-concepts of ideas, etc.

5.  Campus ventures: Students will be randomly allotted licenses to operate small ventures in the campus for short durations e.g. conduct a poster auction, manage hostel canteen for a month/semester, run a mess as for-profit venture during vacations, food stalls during events, etc. They can either exchange the licenses or form partnerships with those who have the licenses they want or just sell the license to another student who wants to operate the venture. This is to encourage thinking like an entrepreneur at a very small level. Coordination with campus administration will be orchestrated to ensure smoother execution of plans made by students.

6.   Open Technology Research Initiative: Students and researchers would be encouraged to participate in Open Research Initiatives around the globe. Center in collaboration with researchers on campus would also start such new initiatives to encourage best minds everywhere in the world to submit designs of new scientific experiments, any data collected for these experiments and their interpretations on Wiki like platforms for specific topics/disciplines. Objective of such initiatives would be to democratize research and engage curious minds everywhere in the process of knowledge creation.

7.   Leadership Coaching: In such programs, students will be encouraged to plan out their own leadership training programs and will get support from the center in the form of nudging or facilitation required for achieving their leadership training goals. Students will be expected to maintain a reflective journal for their goals in leadership development, listing – what they achieved and how, etc. This exercise is expected to build their capacity for, or instill the value of being self-critical and open-minded – which in turn would enable them to hone themselves for becoming better human beings, life-long learners and leaders in their fields.

8.      Surprises journal: I recently read a really interesting post on Slate about how the most important skill in research, self-improvement and career is noticing the unexpected or ways in which things went wrong. The approach suggested keeping a journal of how students found some outcomes surprising and this idea was quite successful in making students think about their mistakes in a positive manner. In this initiative, the students were expected to write-down three points about each of such surprises (i) Moment of surprise (ii) Why it was surprising and (iii) What this tells me. You can read the whole article here

If you have been reading this far, then I request to share your thoughts and ideas on how these activities could be improved or what more could be added to this list. Thank you!

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