Chapter 2 of our mini journey through Exploring Social Innovation program. Follow our two participants from Taiwan and Japan as they take the paperclip challenge through the streets of San Francisco reaching out to strangers and making some luck!
ESI August participants embarked on OpenIDEO's college affordability design challenge through a 3-day design-a-thon with cross cultural teams. Below is a reflection on this unique and challenging experience by ESI August 2015 participant, Trisha Natanael from Indonesia and studying in Hong Kong.
As a trained engineering student, we are used to solving mysteries. The school that I am affiliated with, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, has ‘planted’ a DNA in us to be an effective and efficient problem solver. But, little did I know about how to solve and organise a problem properly. I am avid problem-solver, however, this design challenge was particularly an eye-opener for me. It taught me a very important lesson that problem solving is not only about prototyping--we also have to be patient.
The journey began with understanding our selves, what kind of perspective we bring into the conversation as well as the perspectives of our the other team members. As we came from different cultural backgrounds, I feel like this particular step was extremely important before we dove in into understanding the problem. By cracking several keywords, we determined what direction we should go. In addition to all the information on hand, we brainstormed and interviewed users to gain other perspectives. The journey ended after we finished connecting the dots and finally presented our insights to the OpenIDEO team in San Francisco.
The V-Talk is an ESI tradition! Its a time in the program when each participant has a chance to stand up in front of everyone else and share a personal story or pitch a social cause / project they are particularly passionate about. Below is a reflection on this special and meaningful experience by ESI August 2015 participant, Miguel Gomez from the Philippines.
During the V-Talk presentations, it was interesting to hear different kinds of stories since participants are diverse, belonging to different countries, different professions, different ages, and different motivations. But at the end of the day, despite the variety of background of the individuals and the differences of information that were imparted, it was fascinating to know the everyone was coming from the same perspective of empathy. All participants were open and willing to reach out for others' sake and they were willing to share each other's strengths and weaknesses.
In addition, mentors were knowledgeable on how to teach the participants on how to make an impactful approach for storytelling. I had the opportunity to discuss with Yi, the Program Director, and she had several input that I could implement on how to make my presentation more creative and effective.
Delancey Street Foundation has been a long time favorite organization for VIA Social Innovation program participants. ESI participant Cicy Zhang from Beijing shares her unforgettable experience at this "place for second chances" in this moving video reflection.
During the ESI program, participants learn that empathy is a key mindset and practice for changemakers, both to increase our own effectiveness and improve the usefulness of the solutions we create. Below is a video reflection on the empathy workshop by ESI August 2015 participant, Yuki Yamamoto from Japan.
Yuichi (“Ichi”) particpated in the 2015 ESI August program. He is currently a Master’s student at Keio University (Japan) majoring in media and governance. He received a bachelor’s degree from the School of Nursing and Medical Care of Keio University. Diagnosed as epilepsy in his childhood, he started shodo (Japanese calligraphy) as a rehabilitation. He has overcome epilepsy with the power of shodo, and now he is passionate about introducing shodo therapy to people around the world with mental issues. Ichi has been awarded the Incentive Award from the President of Keio University in 2011 and 2013 for his academic achievements. You can watch a short video on Yuichi (Japanese & English version) and learn more about his experience with ESI in the interview section below!
How is your experience in the ESI program?
I am really enjoying the program. When I am in Japan, I don’t have much opportunity to realize what other perspectives there are in the world. For example, I did an exercise during ESI to share about the issue of “kodokushi (dying alone)” to a non-Japanese. If I brought this up to a Japanese, we would have a common sense that it is a societal problem, but to someone outside Japan, it doesn’t trigger to them as an issue. I would have to explain the cultural background and make clear why the society need to act on this issue.
Another thing I realized is that here in ESI, we could be who we are. In Japan, we introduce ourselves with where we belong– such as X University or Y Company, but at ESI, we have to introduce ourselves through your own interest or what you have been doing instead of which university or company you belong to. The differences in what we value is very different even within Asia, which was an eye-opener to me. The world is truly a wide place!
What story or message would you like to share to the world?
I want to introduce Japanese Culture through Japanese Calligraphy (shodo). The interesting aspect of Japanese culture is that it’s all about “connection”. For instance, kemari is a traditional Japanese soccer where you lose if you kick the ball to a place where the other person cannot reach or kick. You need to communicate and connect with others so that you can keep the ball in the air. Japanese calligraphy is also the same. When you write a character on the paper with the brush, sometimes it breaks down the balance. However, you can make up for it when you draw the next character by connecting to the next character with a balance. Having a connection with others or a sense of belonging to a community is one of the basic needs of a human being. I hope to spread the idea and create communities through Japanese calligraphy around the world.
What have you done to make the change?
I have been volunteering in many nursing and personal care facilities in Japan with Japanese calligraphy therapy. Usually Japanese calligraphy is an individual work but Japanese calligraphy therapy works in a team. Each person in the team will be responsible for one stroke of kanji and relay the baton to the next person. In order to create a balanced calligraphy, you need to have compassion and trust among each other. Therefore, Japanese calligraphy therapy is a way to connect with others and build a strong community, which made me realize that Japanese calligraphy therapy could be a way to bridge Japan and other parts of the world.
What/who are you most inspired by?
I am most inspired by my college professor, Heizo Takenaka. He is my role model. Even though he is very successful, he continues to learn from others and keep up with what is going around the world. His action supports the spirit and objective of practicality – I respect that attitude.
What keeps you motivated?
My motivation stems from my family. My mother is also a calligrapher and I have followed the steps of her in the field of calligraphy. I learned calligraphy in a different city from where I had lived, so my father had to drive me 5 hours to get to calligraphy school. I would not have been able to be in the position of where I am right now without the support of my family. I like to see them be happy and be proud of my achievements. I believe that if I cannot love and make my family happy, I cannot love and make others happy.
What advice would you give to people interested in the ESI program/ Social Innovation?
ESI is a great place to connect with people from other cultural backgrounds. Through workshops and site visits, you understand yourself and clarify your intentions by examining how you feel through hearing stories from changemakers, learning about design thinking, and discussing with peers from around the world. ESI is a great opportunity to articulate your vision and create paths toward your future. If you have a feeling that you somehow want to contribute to the world, I would highly recommend you to connect with the world through ESI.
Check out their full article in Japanese >here< !
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