Last February 20 students participated in the Social Innovation DO Camp at the Peking University. It was an intense 6-day program meant for budding young entrepreneurs. Three of the participants share with us the main learnings they acquired.
[MAYA] I was immediately attracted to the program from the moment I laid eyes on the words ‘social innovation’. I come from a business and economic-oriented background, so my association with the word ‘innovation’ usually comes together with words like ‘profit model’ and ‘tech start-up’s’. Therefore, it was exciting for me to experience and learn more about how to channel innovation into good social causes.
[SIJIA] It’s a great honour for us to be engaged in the Peking University Social Innovation DO Camp. During this one-week camp, 19 PKU students accepted the challenge given by Yintai Foundation – use Yintai shopping mall’s existing space to create an innovative business concept that would generate new consumption demands and create sustainable social impact. Thanks to the help and direction of teachers from Guanghua School of Management and Do School, we finally completed this task.
[LAURA] This year, I had the opportunity of participating in a social innovation challenge for the Yintai Foundation with 18 other Peking University students and professionals. Under the guidance of two experienced facilitators from the Do Camp, our challenge was to develop a new kind of shopping mall experience – one that created social impact but also new demand for consumption, and had to be scalable so as to work not only within the luxurious Yintai shopping spaces but in any mall.
[SIJIA] Every morning, we had a reflection session to think of what we’ve done yesterday. This kind of morning reflection not only helped us a lot in the final pitch, but also gives us many great references for future learning.
[MAYA] it also became evident that despite our notion that public spaces were always open and highly visible areas, the Yintai mall had many smaller open spaces that were only visible from certain angles. Finally, we realized that any idea we had should complement the brands and stores in the mall—not compete with them.
[LAURA] Many of us found ourselves ‘marrying’ an idea that we came up with, as we fell in love with it and perceived it as the best solution possible. Naturally, when this idea was questioned by group mates or shut down by our clients during the early stages, we defended this idea ardently and felt hurt when it was critiqued. What we all realized in hindsight however, is that our idea may not have been so great after all, and that it had to be put it aside, or developed it into something better by combining it with other ideas, or adding new ideas to it. We learned to fully invest oneself when working on an idea, but to never fall too in love with it so as to become blind to any issues within it or reactions to it. A good idea is simply one small part of a great solution.
[MAYA] It was interesting for me to see how each student handled the different opinion questions or analysed situations, especially seeing how we were encouraged to think about conventional things in unconventional ways.
[SIJIA] The last lesson that we learned is how to interact with different kinds of people and work in different groups. Listen to others and share your ideas, then you will be surprised by the results of communication.
[LAURA] Within our group more than ten different nationalities were represented, we were constantly switching teams for the various exercises given to us – giving us a chance to work with everyone within the group. Thus, not only were we from different backgrounds, but could never get used to a stable group dynamic. This was arguably one of the most difficult and rewarding exercises itself. ultimately what makes a great team is not necessarily everyone thinking and acting the same, but everyone being able to use their own strengths to create synergy.
[LAURA] we continued to be pushed to see opportunities instead and learned to think about challenges through the opportunities. When working on a project, it is crucial to realize that most challenges can be solved. Thus, whilst the context allows one to focus a project by selecting and developing realistic ideas, it is key to not limit oneself, to continue thinking outside of the box. As Steve Jobs said: “The customer never knows what they want until we show them”.
[SIJIA] In the Do Camp, teachers from the Do School always told us to abandon our previous ideas and to think of something totally new and different. Although inertia exists in our mind, we should always bear in mind the importance of abandoning previous thoughts in order to achieve real “innovation”. The end of your comfort zone is where your innovation begins.
[MAYA] Our time was short, but the plans were big. Each few days were structured to mirror the process of idea implementation, ranging from ‘Dream’ to ‘Focus’, ‘Plan’ and ‘Do’.
Miguel Angel Cano Santizo
Storyteller of The DO School,
Filmmaker and Director of www.mrchallengefilms.com