When the last student group presented their business proposal to the entire school, ISAK’s Spring 2015 Project Week officially came to an end. It was a week of intense learning for our students, as they worked together in small groups to develop solutions to real-world problems.
Project Week officially kicked off on Monday April 27, when students were divided into eight teams. Each team was paired up with one or more professionals from various international organizations and start-up companies. These professionals generously volunteered their time to work as mentors with our students during Project Week. The first task for each team was to speak with their mentors through Skype in order to gather important information and develop a theme for their project. Inspired by the recent IDEO workshop on campus, students used IDEO’s methods and asked themselves “How might we…?” questions as they set their agendas for Project Week.
One team paired up with beverage company, Runa. After a Skype conversation in which the students learned that Runa is improving the livelihoods of indigenous farmers in the Amazon through the sale of guayusa (an indigenous super-leaf plant) beverages, the team created a Question & Observe Collage that effectively explained their findings. Then they asked the HMW question, “How might we introduce guayusa beverages to the Japanese market?”
For the remainder of the week, students on the Runa team collaborated to answer this complex question. Their project culminated with a three minute TV commercial aimed at introducing guayusa beverages to Japanese consumers.
Project Week offered a unique opportunity for our students to strive toward becoming catalysts for positive change, while at the same time learning from real-world entrepreneurs and social innovators. The purpose of Project Week was to help students develop the mindset and skills necessary to develop something from nothing while practicing their leadership skills.
Many of our students found Project Week to be extremely challenging because the daunting task of creating something from nothing in just seven days required both intense mental focus and strong teamwork. While each student’s experience handling the pressure was different, all agreed that Project Week stretched them outside of their comfort zones and provided a valuable learning experience.
Pandita, a student from Thailand, summed up the experience this way:
“Every activity taught me a lot of things I think I would never get to experience in other schools or even be taught at this age, such as how to craft a vision, form a team, storytelling, and introducing us to different models of organizations and how they function. I think this was rich and meaningful content that we, students, will benefit from in the long run as we grow to adults and pursue our careers. I think these are excellent skills for each of us and will ultimately be handy at any point in life”
When the students take on Project Week as 11th graders next year, they will be pushed even harder to develop their own agendas in the pursuit of creating something from nothing as a means for positive change.