+Acumen

Toronto HCD Event_MakeWorks

Beyond Learning: Building a Community of Practice with +Acumen Courses

This blog post was written with help from Danial Malik, a volunteer course ambassador with Toronto+Acumen and Anna Rickman, a volunteer course ambassador with London+Acumen.

Registration is now open for Making Sense of Social Impact: Acumen’s Building Blocks for Impact Analysis and Adaptive Leadership: Mobilizing for Change.

We started +Acumen courses with a vision to share Acumen’s leadership curriculum with more people around the world to equip them with the tools, knowledge, and networks to change the way the world tackles poverty. At first, we didn’t exactly know what that meant but it’s become clearer to us that in order to do this we need to build communities of practitioners tackling poverty in new and innovative ways where people inspire and provide support for one another, and share their knowledge and experience.

Our volunteer course ambassadors, committed to helping us get the word out and building community around our courses are at the forefront of experimenting with what this might look like. Below are examples of how two course ambassadors are building communities of practice in their cities.

Danial Malik, a course ambassador in Toronto, shares the first steps he’s taken to create a community of practice around Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation, a 7-week course developed with IDEO.org which teaches participants how to create innovative, effective, and sustainable solutions for social change by emphasizing learning by doing, prototyping quickly, and evolving solutions based on real-time feedback.

Danial’s goal was to create a pre-course event that built relationships between course participants and networks of relevant local partners. To do this, Danial and the Toronto+Acumen team collaborated with MakeWorks and MakeLab and speakers who gave a hands-on demonstration of how 3D printers can be used to quickly prototype new ideas.

The speakers included Jonathan Moneta of MakeLab, who gave a passionate introduction to the 3D printing community in Toronto and its potential to disrupt manufacturing as we know it. After, Jonathan encouraged participants to utilize free tools, such as Thingiverse and My Mini Factory, and the Makeworks space during the course to get tangible quickly and bring their ideas to life.

Toronto HCD Event_MakeWorks

Danial tells us that connecting course participants to a physical space is an example of what is needed to build a community of practice. “It’s empowering to know that there are places where you can turn an idea into a tangible prototype. Events like this help people make the connection that they’re just at the start of something much bigger.”

Danial says, going forward, “We want to make our meet-ups more than just people getting together to form a group to take the course but something that provides value beyond the course. The specifics look different depending on the course but across courses the groups come in separately but share a common thread and it’s in that overlap that we want to connect.”

Across the pond, Anna Rickman, a course ambassador in London  hosted a pre-course event featuring Sean Hewens, the Amplify Program Director at IDEO.org and lead architect of +Acumen’s human-centered design curriculum. Sean spoke about examples of social enterprises using human-centered design in the field and the potential for groups to start their own enterprises off the back of the course.

Anna said, “Hosting speakers with first-hand experience with course topics is part of a wider strategy to encourage people to view +Acumen courses as a practical tool and springboard for applying what they learn in their work right away.”

Like Danial, the second part of Anna’s strategy is to develop long-term relationships with physical spaces. In this vein, Anna secured a partnership with HUB Islington where every Thursday from 6-9pm the space is open for the +Acumen course community.

In all our courses, we encourage people to sign-up with a group and work through the course together. “This solves the problem of finding a creative, convenient and affordable venue for course groups to use each week, fosters community, and encourages collaboration and learning between groups.” In return, Anna and the London+Acumen team are facilitating human-centered design workshops for the Hub Youth Academy program, a training program for aspiring social entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 25.Anna1

“This partnership shows the power of the +Acumen courses and wider +Acumen community. It has the potential to create new generations of teachers, students and practitioners in social enterprise within our chapter, the +Acumen community, and the wider social enterprise network in London. As the London+Acumen course ambassador, scaling the impact of the online courses this year is all about developing local partnerships. I hope to capitalize on the knowledge, skills, resources, passion and drive of everyone active in social enterprise in London, increasing the value and outcomes of all of our efforts, and maximizing our collective impact.”

For more information on becoming a +Acumen course ambassador in your area please visit http://plusacumen.org/become-ambassador/, or connect with your local chapter.

 

 

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