Impact At Scale

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Social Impact Social Innovation Future Fellows Beeck Center

My Experience as a Beeck Center Futures Fellow

By: Gaelle Pierre-Louis,  School of Foreign Service, Class of 2017
July 2015

In many of my classes, I focus so much on the end goals – the final paper or test that will result in the final grade – that I do not always embrace the sacred journey of the learning process. As a Beeck Center Futures Fellow, I learned that the real magic and growth is truly in the journey: the dynamic process of iterating ideas, developing a hypothesis, testing that hypothesis with the target users, failing, growing though frustration, and creating a final product that I’m excited to share.

The goal of the Beeck Center’s Futures Fellows class is to equip students with the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to think through and address complex, systemic social, and environmental challenges. Turning theory into practice, fellows are provided with the opportunity to work with a real life client to scale and improve an existing social innovation program.

This year, the Future Fellows were paired with Ateneo University in the Philippines to help scale a feeding program benefiting local students. Ateneo’s feeding program currently serves approximately 21,000 nutritious meals a day to low-income students attending public schools in the Metro-Manila area. The objective of this fellowship was to figure out a way, by working in teams, to scale the feeding program from 20,000 meals to 2,000,000 meals in the coming years so that more children can be well nourished so that they can be alert and successful in their studies and in life.

Many times during the semester, our instructors Michael Chodos and Dr. Hollie Russon Gillman challenged us to think creatively, challenge our assumptions, and ideate freely. Throughout the course, my group members and I oftentimes didn’t know what our next steps would be, or the best process for addressing this complex issue. It was frustrating not being able to find the answer, or even figure out the right questions. But moments like these – moments of uncertainty – happen often in the real world. Through this class, I realized how valuable it was to have a safe space to work through this uncertainty, to try and to fail, and to try again – just as you would in the real world. Because in learning to solve complex systemic problems, there isn’t always a right answer or a clear path forward. The class’s guest lecturers, Paul Schmitz and Nadia Roumani, reinforced this idea – that most of the world’s best leaders have had to navigate their way through murky waters and unexpected failures, ultimately forging their own path leading to success.

So my lesson to share with all you is: Embrace the journey, embrace uncertainty. Don’t worry if the process feels messy – it’s supposed to.

The views, opinions, and positions expressed by the author of this article do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University or any employee thereof.

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