This January 2019, nineteen social innovators representing 9 countries convened at Cotton Tree Lodge in Belize for a week of learning, community building, and personal + professional development. Fellows were eligible to apply by completing the Center’s free Coursera in Social Impact Strategy.
Throughout the week, the Global Social Impact House Fellows took time to reflect in nature and home in on some of the most pressing questions surrounding their personal purpose and enterprise. They took the time to get to know one another and find shared connections, laying the foundation for deeper collaboration throughout the week.
Thanks to our hosts at Cotton Tree Lodge, Fellows stayed in riverside cabanas and enjoyed meals cooked with fresh, local produce from the organic farm on-site.
Each day began with a small group conversation to set aside time for check-ins, reflection, and goal setting. On the first full day of the program, Fellows told the stories behind who they are, where they come from, and where they’re heading. Teams worked together to synthesize lessons from these stories into shared themes and values.
The group then dove into the process of applying creative principles to design thinking, and assessed their ventures using social impact tools and frameworks.
Dr. Peter Frumkin from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice led sessions building on the Coursera class on topics such as “The Most Important Sentence” and risk assessment for social ventures.
Fellows worked on developing the “Most Important Sentence” of their work: a balanced, descriptive summary of mission, scope of impact, and audience.
Gray Garmon – Director of the Center for Integrated Design in the School of Design and Creative Technologies at the University of Texas in Austin – taught sessions on human-centered design. Gray’s workshops centered around three core principles of human-centered design: “Understand. Make. Repeat.”
Fellows applied lessons in design thinking to create quick prototypes to address a key question or challenge from their venture. They then had the opportunity to test their new product or service through several rounds of user feedback and updates.
In pairs, Fellows practiced key negotiations frameworks in a simulated activity.
Using a vision-setting exercise, Fellows created a roadmap for short- and mid-term goals related to their social ventures and personal journeys.
In addition to all the hands-on learning and integration, Fellows were also encouraged to find time throughout the week for reflection, and to appreciate the beautiful surroundings at Cotton Tree Lodge. The group explored the nearby town of Punta Gorda (or Peini, in Garifuna) on a well-deserved afternoon off. They enjoyed a dockside picnic lunch, a dip in the ocean, a tour of Cotton Tree Lodge’s chocolate social enterprise.
We’re particularly grateful to the incredible staff at Cotton Tree Lodge for taking such good care of the GSIH Fellows and organizing team. We look forward to offering the Global Social Impact House again in the future.
Think you might be interested in applying? Keep an eye on the program page, and take the Coursera in Social Impact Strategy: Anyone who has completed this class and is running a social impact venture, organization, or project is eligible to apply. Tuition is included free of charge for all Fellows.