Ashoka U Exchange

In late February, Jorge went to Duke University for a conference hosted by Ashoka U. The conference was an opportunity for Jorge to meet hundreds of social entrepreneurs and students interested in the field. Not only was he able to make many connections, but the structure of the program included many workshop sessions. Each hour, there were 4 or 5 options, which allowed Jorge to attend the most relevant for the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy.

Perhaps the two most interesting and relevant workshops were “Building a Self-Sustaining, Revenue-Generating Center” and “Storytelling for Social Change”. The first workshop was helpful in conceptualizing the future possibilities for the Academy in terms of financial support. Dave Casper, the leader of the workshop, pointed out that the traditional model of funding (asking donors for money and producing a report telling them how the money was used) isn’t the most effective long-term strategy for funding projects. Instead, he demonstrated a closed loop model, in which initial money is invested in an idea, which produces something, which then does something, which creates value, which can be reinvested in the project, or used to start a new one. All the “somethings” in that model are dependent upon the project itself. The idea, however, is something that the Academy will likely try to implement in the future. The key, according to Casper, is shifting from “problem solving” to “value creating”.

The second workshop, “Storytelling for Social Change”, taught a skill useful to every person, but perhaps particularly those who aim to engage a larger community in a project or program. Roshan Paul led this workshop and demonstrated, using video clips that most were familiar with such as speeches made by President Obama, how people connect with speakers. Most people explain what they do, some explain how they do it, but few can effectively explain why they do it. The best speakers and most effective organizations can tell their story in reverse…. Why they do that they do, and then how and what. Paul then had the group break into teams of 4 and work through telling each person’s individual story. While difficult, due to language and cultural differences, this skill is incredibly important to the Academy, as we seek to connect with friends and partners from other countries. As an institution, we are learning how to tell our stories, and navigating certain differences in the process.

Jorge and the Academy would like to thank both Ashoka U for hosting the conference, as well as the financial assistance they provided to help cover travel expenses. An additional huge thank you to Global Fund for Children for financial assistance, covering the rest of the travel expenses as well as lodging and food expenses.