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Chicken Soup for the Learning Soul

A gathering of educators and learners to impact change in society through collaboration and crowdsourcing.

Photo of Naman Mandhan

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Detroit SOUP is a crowdfunding potluck that brings people together to raise money and support for community projects. Attendees make a suggested donation of $5 and listen to four pitches from people doing great things in their community—anything from cleaning up a park, to running an after-school program, to starting a small business. Over a potluck-style dinner, attendees connect, ask questions, share ideas, and vote on the project they like the best. The winner leaves with all of the money raised at the door to carry out their project and attends a future SOUP to report on the progress of their project. (Source of description: Placemaking)

I recently had the opportunity to attend one of the SOUP events and was blown away by the impact that it has on the Detroit community as well as the sheer number of people who are passionate about change within their societies.

What if we could take this idea and extend it to education and problem solving?

Members of the community can submit proposals for problems they are having or issues that they need to resolve. Each month, a group of people gather in a room to hear a shortlist of proposals. Each presenter presents for a pre-determined amount of time and a small donation at the door gives each attendee the right to vote for a problem that they believe has the greatest potential to change the world. The winning idea receives the donation to purchase books, papers or any resources that will help them solve the problem.

However, instead of just being a crowdfunding activity, the bigger takeaway here is the expertise of the attendees at the gathering. At the end of the event, the attendees can share their contact information or have conversations with any of the problem originators to form teams to tackle the problem. While the monetary benefit for the winning team is an added bonus, everybody wins because the problem originators now walk away with a team of individuals who are invested in their problem and willing to help.

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

This idea is designed for anyone looking to solve a problem and provides a platform to connect people to each other to promote collaborative problem-solving.

This idea emerged from:

  • An individual

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

What challenges do you foresee with the implementation of this idea? Is there a potential for partnerships with companies, schools or other institutions to subsidize the cost and keep the focus only on sharing of knowledge and expertise?

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Invite my friends at home for a potluck dinner and have a couple of them formulate a problem that they are having. At the dinner, I will ask my friends to share their problems and have people connect with them to help them solve their problems. Another experiment could be to have people record short videos of their problems on social media and conduct an online poll to determine the winners.

Tell us about your work experience:

I recently graduated with a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering, with a focus in decision-making, human-centered design, economic theory and additive manufacturing. I am currently a Design Engineer at an automotive company and a part of the OpenIDEO Detroit chapter.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Naman,

Great idea. I would suggest reaching out to Broaden Horizons and Develop Problem Solvers and see what they think - I think there is a link.

Could you get a corporate sponsor for the pot of money? Maybe consultancy like Accenture might be interested (or a big graduate recruiter in the Detroit area).

I would also check out these ideas Open Call and Democratic Tool for Massive Networks - there are a few interesting comments on these posts as well.

Photo of Kate Rushton

There are a few companies here -

Could the students provide support in terms of web development, sales, market intelligence/research, grant writing and so on?

Photo of Naman Mandhan

Thanks Kate! The more I think about it, the more I think that corporate sponsorships could definitely be do-able as well. Having worked both within academia as a researcher and now an engineer at an automotive company, I can see how individuals working on projects for their research or corporations could benefit from this. I think there's a challenge that lies in the limited sharing of information, as a lot of details related to the project may be proprietary.

A potential solution to this problem could be to have a theme surrounding each meeting, as mentioned in Open Call and have professionals and researchers who relate themselves to the theme join and scout potential for collaboration. I believe that the focus should be on solving problems faced by individuals who wish to create impact, rather than have sponsorships drive what the problems are and who gets to present.

What are your thoughts on this?

Photo of Kate Rushton

I think sponsorship can vary in how involved the sponsors are. I used to attend a meetup event in London that was sponsored by a company. The actual company sponsorship was in name only just to gain awareness of the brand - they needed to recruit people in their IT department. They did not attend or influence the events in any way shape or form.

I would be interested in the opinion of DETROITSoup, the students, lecturers at the local Universities, your employer (if possible) on what they think of the idea and how they see it operating to match their needs and interests.

Photo of Naman Mandhan

Hi Kate,

Thank you for the suggestion! I will reach out to people I may know in each of these groups and hear what they have to say!

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Naman,

I found this article on the top donors to the University of Michigan -

It might be useful.

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