One World Youth Project ???

Stories From a Connected World

A blog about the experience and ideas of One World Youth Project.

Scott Shigeoka

Scott Shigeoka is the Partnership Director for One World Youth Project, working to establish and retain sustainable public-private partnerships between universities, secondary schools, governments and nonprofits. He was born in Hawaii and graduated with a bachelor of arts in journalism from Washington State University.

Behind the Curtains: Crafting a Value Proposition

This is part two of my “Behind the Curtains” series, a 5-part exploration of the processes, technology and strategies behind One World Youth Project’s partnership building. Part one of the series, Behind the Curtains: Innovative Technology for Partnership Building, discusses how we use innovative technology to manage partnerships remotely.

The value proposition is an important part of any organization, whether for profit or non profit. It helps stakeholders better understand the promised value your organization offers. During the development of our value proposition, I kept the following objectives in mind:

Identify the ultimate decision makers at each institution who potentially have the greatest influence on the growth and profit in our chain.

  • Why: This allows us to scale and remix* our program to different regions of the world, thus increasing the social impact our organization has. (*Remix is different than [mirrored] replication at scale because we make our program flexible to fit the context, values and priorities of each institution and community. This ensures the highest level of efficacy because, in the world of education across the global stage, we believe that one size does not fit all.)

Discover the resulting experiences that universities most value vs. our “competitors” by creatively and analytically inferring from what customers do – not by asking them what they want.

  • Why: This allows us to educate ourselves on the landscape we are operating in while deepening our understanding of what higher education institutions are hoping to deliver to its students. This is important to ensure we are forging partnerships with institutions that share our mission while increasing our efficacy and the probability of successful program implementation. I put our “competitors” in quotes because, unlike for-profit corporations, nonprofits work together to deliver the highest concerted effort of social change in communities. Understanding the work of our “competitors” allows us to plan for the education pipeline (the big picture) by conveying which organizations we could potentially partner or collaborate with to provide the greatest impact.

Choose the combination of these resulting experiences which the business could profitably deliver, and which would generate breakthrough growth

  • Why: This allows us to pinpoint offerings in our program that we should continue expanding and developing, while giving us additional context on areas we might want to take a second look at (remember that this is in the context of social benefit and not monetary benefit). In addition, we can better understand areas outside of our current program structure that we might want to build out in order to provide the greatest value to the communities we serve (this is how our coalition with the Harvard Graduate School of Education, localization processes and alumni fellowship opportunities came about–we saw a need that would help inform and benefit our existing programming, and so we followed through).

Creatively redesign and integrate our program to deliver those experiences

  • Why: Last but not least, and what is often overlooked, is the communication that happens between the recruitment/”sales” division and the programming team. What we find from our value proposition research and analysis will greatly inform the evolution of our program and the way in which it is delivered. In such an interconnected world where things are constantly changing due to technological advancement, it’s important that even nonprofits follow suit to provide the best (and most up-to-date) value to the communities it serves.

And of course, an organization’s value proposition initiative should not be left untouched after initial completion. The value proposition is a constantly evolving understanding of an organization, its sector and the people/communities it serves — all attributes that will change over time due to shifts in an organization and its environment. Thus, it needs to be constantly re-evaluated and re-defined to ensure that the program is providing the greatest value while being delivered and implemented in the most effective way possible.

A value proposition is so important for a nonprofit for reasons different than for-profits: building partnerships as a nonprofit should be as intentional and calculated as possible. There should alignment in missions/visions and an ability to identify and assess what institutions will thrive should a partnership be created. Not only that, but value propositions also ensure sustainability and continued value added for the communities you serve. Communities are constantly evolving due to the advancements and changes that happen in our world. It is not only fair, but also necessary, that we continue to shape program offerings and implementation to meet this reality.

Study Abroad At Home

The Guardian featured a great article on government support of internationalizing higher education institutions in Japan. ”Beyond student mobility, however, internationalization has been less developed in Japan, especially in terms of curriculum reform,” said Hiroshi Ota, director of Global Education Program at Hitotsubashi University. We’re seeing a change here in the USA with organizations like NAFSA crafting proposals to increase the number of American students studying abroad while also increasing the number of incoming international students.

While I fully support the missions of organizations that focus on increasing studying abroad numbers, which are at a dismal 1% in the US, I believe that this single approach is not enough for substantial change. There are financial barriers and issues of student access with study abroad programs, and these opportunities usually favor countries like the UK, Italy, Spain, France, China and Australia — six countries that claim nearly 50 percent of the total US study abroad pool (IIE, Open Doors 2011).This leaves a group of countries, which might not have an established partnership, isolated from becoming a part of the ‘global network’. For example, no country in Africa is in the top 25 leading destinations for US students studying abroad — yet the continent is incredibly diverse, rich in history, important to world affairs and open to such exchanges — which is why One World Youth Project is concentrating expansion efforts in Africa for the 2013/2014 program year.

Depending on the student and the program, the study abroad experience could change perspectives or could simply be a prolonged summer, semester or year of partying with other Americans in a foreign nation. It takes dedication from the students, a sound host family (if this route is even chosen at all) and an intentional program that allows cross-cultural engagement to really create an intercultural experience. Nonetheless, the focus of this article is not to completely undermine or berate the concept of study abroad. In fact, I myself am a product of some amazing study abroad experiences which changed my life and career trajectory. I would not be working for OWYP if it weren’t for the opportunities I’ve had to go abroad. Organizations that promote study abroad continue to work tirelessly to extend these opportunities and we at OWYP are in solidarity with them concerning this same mission: global citizens with global competence.

The point I’m trying to make, which echos Ota’s conclusions in his article, is that studying abroad isn’t the only way to internationalize a populace. There needs to be an internationalization of a curricula throughout the educational pipeline from pre-school until university graduation. There need to be activities in schools that promote diversity, cross-cultural exchange and working with individuals of different cultures. The challenge is two-pronged and we cannot achieve one without the other. The government needs to take global skill sets and a 21st century education seriously, so that public education systems can adapt appropriately.

Ota’s column reiterates this when he states that “…the Japanese government is expected to continue to support the strategic initiatives of university internationalization in order to provide a catalyst for the functional transformation of Japanese universities towards meeting the demands of the 21st century’s global knowledge-based society.”

While governments around the world like Japan are focusing such efforts on their educational system, it seems the US is falling behind and focusing too much on areas like STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math), and although important for economic development, even engineers need global competence to operate in the reality of the integrated and globalized world we now live in.

Value Added: Professional Development Opportunities to Students

As the Partnership Director, one of my responsibilities is to articulate and adapt One World Youth Project’s (OWYP) value proposition to each of our university partners. While the value added to a campus can be different based on the specific needs of a university partner, one of the values we add to all of our campuses is an opportunity for university students to gain professional skills that will aid them when they graduate and enter the workforce.

I interviewed OWYP Alumni Fellow Ossob Mohamud, who currently works on staff at our headquarters in Washington D.C. She was a Project Manager Fellow at School of Foreign Service in Education City, Qatar during the 2010-2011 academic year.

An Alumni Fellow is a paid professional position based out of Washington D.C. that we offer to OWYP alumni.

Why did you originally want to join OWYP?

A friend was excited about it and told me about her experience as a past participant in OWYP at the Washington, D.C. Hub at Georgetown. I took my time to look into it, and I was impressed by the organization and what it was trying to do, and I also saw a need for it in our own community.

How was it like to participate in the international Summer Training Conference?

It was something very different from what I’ve ever done. I got to know my counterpart Project Manager Fellows really well—we bonded. [STC] was in a cabin in West Virginia, and we had a lot of activities about educational theories and ideologies, things that I liked so much that I looked into them after the training. We also got to plan how we would structure our Hub at Qatar. We kept asking ourselves questions like, ‘Who are we going to target for recruitment?’ and ‘How are we going to advise our peers?’ It was great to be in a space that allowed us to think innovatively about how we could run this program.

How was it like to manage the Hub in Qatar?

At first, it was extremely tough because there were logistical problems. Our small student body meant we faced challenges with recruitment, and it forced us to be really creative about how we recruited our peers. There were times when we wondered, “Is this possible?” But eventually we got our group of PAs (Project Ambassadors) recruited, and it was great, and such a good feeling to feel that sense of success. You know, before OWYP, I was a timid person and didn’t want to bother anyone, but being a PMF (Project Manager Fellow) in Qatar taught me to be determined and to make sure any initiative I believed in became successful. It gave me courage.

What kind of skills do you feel you gained?

I gained lots of professional development with leading meetings. I had never led a meeting in my life. I also gained lots of leadership skills…mediating conflict and helping others work through problems. I gained professionalism, how I was perceived and how I worked with others. I really appreciated all of the people skills I gained…through this program I worked with a lot of different individuals, of different backgrounds, it was really diverse…As a student leader, we had to navigate all of those identities while building team morale and respecting their boundaries at the same time.

Why did you decide to become an Alumni Fellow?

Jess Rimington (Founder and Executive Director) approached me with the opportunity, and I thought it over…I felt that it was a good place to me because [the fellowship] would give me the opportunity to explore and learn more about myself and what I’m passionate about. Plus it was with something I already had experience with and the mission is something I align with.

What did you gain as an Alumni Fellow?

I developed trainings, led trainings, created and managed content creation. Working on things professionally, with things that I am so interested in, was a great opportunity. I did a lot of research, and had my eyes opened to many different issues. I figured out what I am passionate about, such as making things inclusive and ensuring accessibility to education in different countries and cultures. I think about thought leadership almost every day.

The experience of OWYP as a whole…what’s the takeaway?

That’s a huge, loaded question. There’s just so much I appreciate. (sigh) There’s been so much learning and so much development. I’ve learned so much about what I’m interested in, and these are actual things I want to pursue later in life. It made me critically think about topics I normally would have never thought about. But above all, I developed so many different relationships…friendships, colleagues, and meeting many different people and learning from them. The takeaway is a lot of changes in my approach, my interests and myself. I’m never going to forget this.

Born after the Berlin Wall Came Down

The Thiel Fellowship is a $100,000 prize awarded to under-20 geniuses to drop out of school and start their own ventures. The fellowship was established by Peter Thiel, the billionaire who founded PayPal and attended Stanford for his B.A. and J.D. It was created to foster a new generation of tech visionaries, a field that Thiel said has been dominated by young people creating the “world’s most transformational technologies.”

That’s why Airy Labs, an ed-tech enterprise creating mobile and tablet games with core educational missions, which was founded by Thiel fellow Andrew Hsu, 16, was thought to be an organization positioned for success. The proof was also in the money: in a first round of funding, Airy Labs gathered $1.5 million from big name capitalists.

But on Saturday, TechCrunch reported that most of Airy Lab’s 20-person staff has been laid off. Ex-employees reported of paranoia and mismanagement. The news sparked Audrey Watters of Hack Education, and other ed-tech journalists, to speak about the possible implications the Thiel Fellowship has on such ventures:

What does the failure of Airy Labs say about Thiel’s whole argument for dropping out? What does it mean for his argument that the best bet lies in backing young entrepreneurs and paying them very handsomely to drop out of school to start companies?

I’m offering the argument that it’s not so much the gateway of higher education that is the problem. Instead, it’s the way that higher education is structured. In a world that is so interconnected and evolving at an exponential rate due to technology, universities need to not just continuously update the technology on their campus, but also update their curricula and approach. Students can’t sit through a semester of computer science classes anymore and learn coding. They need to be actively participating in tangible, real world projects that help them holistically understand the full scope of the tech industry. And simple “internship” opportunities aren’t going to be enough, there needs to be a curriculum that shapes students’ understanding of how the world is evolving.

A college education in its current state isn’t necessarily ineffective because the statistics don’t lie: College degree holders still earn more in their lifetime than high school graduates. However, the trends of rising tuition prices, decreased State support, coupled with program eliminations and lack of updated curricula, aren’t the necessary recipes that promise graduates with jobs nowadays.

Here are my suggestions of where universities can begin to restructure:

• Increase programming opportunities that will prepare students for the realities of the interconnected and globalized world
• Allow students to customize their education, in partnership with an advisor, to help students shape their higher education experience into something that is practical for them.

Highly successful entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library are literally telling people to quit jobs that they feel unhappy with or aren’t truly passionate about. Once people find something they truly love and are happy doing, the success will come as a byproduct, Vaynerchuk said. So many other successful businessmen and women believe the same mantra.

So if we all want students to do what they love because it’s proven to help you feel happy and succeed, then why aren’t we asking them to explore such a question once they enter college? Why aren’t we increasing program opportunities to do such exploring? Why aren’t we allowing students to then create a customized education that makes the most sense for their professional goals, especially if the original purpose of college was to help students prepare for the realities of our world–a reality which has changed considerably?

The late Steve Jobs who co-founded Apple and Pixar Animations gave a commencement speech at Stanford University. He talked about his affinity for a “personalized education” where he could “take the classes he wanted to take.” He talked about how the experiences he gained outside of the classroom—like being resourceful for food and taking entrepreneurial risks with great ideas—are things that eventually helped him become largely successful.

But beyond that, even as a college dropout, Jobs also talked about how he “connected the dots looking backwards” and found that his higher education experience, albeit limited, helped with his success as well. He talked about taking classes at Reed College during his 16-month period of dropping out. He spoke specifically about a calligraphy class he took in college which eventually spawned the foundations of typography, the beautiful san-serif and serif fonts, on the first Macintosh machines. It was a class he was interested in, it opened his eyes to a new experience, and it eventually had practical application almost a decade later.

Forget the “higher education bubble” and which side you’re on regarding whether or not it’s about to burst. Forget about the rising level of student loans. Forget about the low college graduation rates. I know, these are bold statements of forgetting, but what really needs to be examined is the content and approach of higher education institutions, not just in our nation, but also around the world. We are entering a truly incredible time period of transnational cooperation and competition, exponential evolution of technology and interconnectedness. The world has changed so dramatically, it’s about time higher education catches up.

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