To kick-start the second semester, we, MSc Sustainability and Social Innovation (SASI) program’s students, had our second “change maker” seminar.
What, you may be wondering, is a change maker? (Let alone a change-maker seminar!?) Well, in short, it is what this Master’s is all about. It is about finding ways to create positive change and impact in the world. About looking at existing models and asking how we might be able to innovate and improve them. About building ideas that might help us shift that dial in the direction we need to be moving in.
Making that change isn’t easy. But its why we are all here. So to guide us to become these change makers, we were whisked off campus for 2 days.
After an early start, we pulled up to a stunning converted farm. Behind the farm were the beautiful yurts, which were to be our accommodation that night. We gathered in the main room and were greeted by our program directors, Jeremy Ghez et Lise Pénillard, as well as Bénédicte Faivre-Tavignot (the ‘mother’ of SASI) and Florian Hoos (the previous Scientific Director of the program) – all of whom are familiar faces to us by this point. Jeremy and Lise, as the Scientific Director and Academic Director of the program respectively, talked to us about how we might feel a little unsettled after the first semester, during which we concentrated on thinking about the huge issues facing the world today, and how we might go about solving some of these issues. The task is definitely a daunting one. But this seminar was going to be all about finding more about ourselves in order to help us navigate the waters ahead.
(Thomas showing off the yurts)
Then Benedicte and Florian took the floor in order to introduce the 2 days ahead of us. They explained that this seminar was really designed as a moment for us to take a step back, take a deep breath and give ourselves the opportunity to reflect on our own goals and direction. We would identify the ways in which we might have an impact on the world by first understanding who we are, and what we want to contribute to.
To begin, we were each individually given our MBTI scores, and had the opportunity to discuss these, what they told us about ourselves, about how we energize, how we organize, how we work. The MBTI test is one of the most widely used personality tests used worldwide, based on Jung’s conceptual theory of psychology, and gives everyone one of 16 personality ‘types’. It was great not only learning more about myself, but it was also interesting learning about what type everyone else was! Especially as we spent a huge amount of time during the first semester working in teams with one another on group projects. Interestingly, from a brief straw man poll, it didn’t look like there was one predominant ‘type’ of SASI either…
During the afternoon, Florian encouraged us to take some time out on our own, and to spend this time thinking about our past from as far back as we could remember to the present, and to identify some events which have shaped us over the years. We could then either choose to share some of these moments with a friend over a stroll or keep them to ourselves – whichever we preferred. These moments of introspection were actually impressively powerful. At least I personally can’t remember the last time I allowed myself a few hours to just think about what has shaped me to get to where I am today.
After a long, albeit incredibly insightful couple of hours, we decided to call it a day. We sat down for dinner, opened the bottles of wine and turned up the music. Aaaaand it wasn’t long before the charming French farmhouse we’d arrived at had converted itself into another SASI house-party.
The next morning, we (rather hazily) rose from our yurts. If the day before had been about looking at your past, this day was about looking forward to our future. Thinking about what our passions are, what impact we want to have, what we want to change, and about the leaders of today already doing so. Again, although I think a lot about the things that I’d like to change in the world, and I also think about what jobs to apply for in the next few months, I haven’t allowed myself the time to think about what change I want to be making in 10/15/20 years time! It was empowering, and it was a lovely reminder of the reasons why we had all applied for SASI in the first place.
Over the course of the day, we created ourselves profiles of where we want our futures to go, and what the red thread might be across every decision we make in order to get there, of course, guided by Florian and Benedicte.
And before we knew it, the two days were over.
It was a great seminar.
Quite often on the course, we all feel the weight of the world on our shoulders. I know that might sound perhaps a little melodramatic, but it’s true. We constantly think about how much needs to change, how fast it needs to happen, and how far away we are from those changes if we are to build a bright future. This seminar was just what we needed to kick-start our second semester. It was an opportunity to remind us of what we want to go and change in this world and how we are going to go about doing it. Or, in other words, how we will become change makers.