By Alankrita Khera:
Teach For India hosted the Innovation Weekend, in Pune between the 22nd and 24th of January that saw multiple teams of a diverse group of participants come together at COEP’s Academic Complex to find innovative solutions to an existential problem statement – How do we ensure high school students in Pune attain the knowledge, skills and mindsets necessary for the 21st century?
The InspirED format weekend marathon was launched with an opening ceremony that established the fundamental understanding behind the purpose and context to the problem and the need for innovation to solve the same.
Rupali, an 8th grade student from iTeach Kondhwa School, shared her dreams, her struggles and her hope for her future through a poem written by her, titled “Aayushya”.
Post the opening ceremony, 8 teams of 6 participants each dug into the research documents provided to arrive at what they felt was the crux of this complex problem.
The day ended with each of the groups sharing their results that ranged from poor quality of teacher training programs and lack of exposure to vocational professions to the complexity of the system to allow for students choices, to name a few.
Students at each table pushed the participants as they thought through their results from the previous day. The participants were also taken through sessions on design thinking that left them with a question “Do we want to design for our stakeholders or with our stakeholders?”
As solutions started emerging, Kavita R from Villgro took them through a session on Business Model Canvassing that provided the participants with a framework on to build their ideas.
Mahesh, a 7th grade Teach For India student, was seen helping his team think of innovative solutions to generate a revenue stream for their business model. He suggested collecting a nominal amount from all parents to build accountability, in addition to building a corpus to access and pay skilled mentors to help students understand what the real world needs.
The day ended with a gratitude circle to urge the participants to build relationships with their team members and have them focus as much on the process as the outcome.
The final day was all about how teams could pull all their thoughts and learnings together to create a 6 minute presentation for the Jury. They were required to word their problem, solution and a business model to see their solution through.
The jury, comprising of Joseph Cubas (Head – Research and Planning, Avasara Academy), Meher Pudumjee (Chairperson – Thermax) and Sheetal Bapat (Founder – Shyamchi Aai), asked critical questions to push the teams to dig deeper.
We saw solutions ranging from tech-enabled platforms for connecting skilled mentors to students to revamping under-used computer labs into R&D centres to working with CSR leaders in the city to design classroom interventions that exposed students to the ‘real’ world. Solutions also involved working with a diverse range of stakeholders; from parents to teachers to community leaders to students themselves.
After a heavy round of deliberation and an audience poll, Team ‘Champions of Change Club’ won the Jury Award for their solution to build parent investment through community centers that encourage open dialogue and offer sessions on financial training and vocational guidance.
Team ‘Skill Saturdays’ won the People’s Choice Award for their solution that focused on ensuring students had more ‘choice’ early on. They designed a model where they would connect skilled workers from the community and the industry to students in school and offer certificate courses to students to develop skills that are relevant in the 21st Century.
The Jury shared that they believed in an approach that moulded an ecosystem around the child and urged the audience to think critically about the role of the government.
The Innovation Weekend ended with a closing ceremony led by students. Each participating student shared what they had learnt and talked about what the year 2025 could look like for them if all the solutions that came out of the weekend were to come to life, today!
Teach For India’s Fellowship program places outstanding working professionals and college graduates as Fellows – who work full-time for two years in low-income & under-resourced schools teaching underprivileged kids. Applications to the 2016-18 Teach For India Fellowship program are now open. Application Deadline: 2nd February 2016.