Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rusty, but Tan

So, I have been away for a while from the blog world, and am feeling a bit rusty. It has been over a month since my last blog post, and I can no longer blame the slow internet connections.

When I started teaching (my 5th anniversary of this career change is August 3), part of the reason I did it was to have "summers off." This was yet another example of my naivete regarding academia, since the first 4 summers were spent working. This year, I vowed it would be different, and was brave enough to tell my wife (a way of ensuring follow through). It is a sad fact, that the last time I had a summer off was when I was 13 (and then it was easier to get by without being paid). This is a summer to do things I think are important, but that I don't have to justify as being "job related" to any employer.

Most of July we spent in the Dominican Republic, in part to try to improve our Spanish and in part to get some together time on some wonderful beaches. I think I did OK on both: I have a "certificado" attesting to my participation at the Instituto Intercultural del Caribe in Sosua, and a pretty decent tan (to keep my Spanish going long after my tan fades, I plan to become a customer of Speakshop, a cool online fairtrade language service). It was also interesting to be a student again, and to have that crazy overload feeling of trying to put too much into your leaky bucket of a brain! However, I used a lot of the strategies my students have used with me, including asking questions I figured might lead to "war stories," proposing coffee breaks, and asking for review sessions.

Last week, I was at MIT for a few fun days at the International Development Design Summit. They were busy days, but saw some good ideas emerging on the student teams, and I hope the Venture Stories* and Venture 3 x 5** exercises help them think a bit about Designing for Dissemination. It was also great to have Rob Katz from Acumen Fund agree to a last minute visit and give a nice talk about what they look for when they invest (here is his blog on the trip). Best of all, however, was having a chance to dip into this swirling pool of wild ideas and smart, passionate people from around the world. To meet Kenny Mubuyaeta, from Disacare in Zambia, who has had some of our GSSE students working with him at his mobility facility for those disabled by accidents or disease. To see Zubaida Bai again, who I met last summer at IDDS and who will be starting with the next cohort of GSSE students in August, and hear her confidently introduce Ruth Mufute and Harish Hande in front of a large crowd. To meet participants like Mark Jeunnette, who is starting with IDE in Ethiopia soon, and hear his enthusiasm about what he is learning at IDDS. Kudos to the team and I'd encourage any BOPreneurs who are in the Boston area to go see the final presentations on August 6.
*Recipe for Venture Stories: Who is your customer? What is your product? Why does it matter? Who's on your team? Tell a story about this, in less than 100 words. [thanks to Andy Hargadon for the idea behind this]

**Recipe for Venture 3 x 5: Based on your Venture Story, pick 3 things your team thinks it is important to accomplish. Figure out how you will measure each. Now set goals for each item for the next 5 years and put them in a 3x5 matrix. Pay attention to the discussion. Pay attention to how being specific starts making you think differently about design, manufacture, resources. expansion, etc. Have your team develop two 3 x 5's and discuss how each option may be a very different organization.

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