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Mik: a CareerLab to empower our youth

We promote intergenerational collaboration to reimagine higher education through a solution-based vocational lab.

Photo of Gaby Brenes
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Mik ("to go" in bribrí) is a CareerLab where high school students collaborate with teachers, college students, and topic mentors in order to generate solutions to the things they're passionate about. Passion turns into diligence, so committed students are more likely to pursue excellence and be proactive in their career paths.

This vocational lab focuses on building confidence and a sense of purpose, thus enhancing the leadership and empathy skills in students. In Mik, they'll engage in multidisciplinary teams and create solutions to the challenges that move them, thus harnessing their creativity and skillsets into generating value and owning up to a particular role, not a job description.

Most of all, we want students to look back on their professional paths and say: "It was love at first project". Hence, students map their "dream career" based on values, causes and work cultures that resonate with them.  

A solution-based, innovation-driven space, Mik is founded on three pillars: multidisciplinary teams, multigenerational collaboration, and human-centered design. Through the cooperation with college students and topic mentors, they'll learn about the complexity and richness of a particular field, but it is through first-hand experience that they enhance their creative problem-solving and problem-finding skills.

Among other things, students in Mik will:

  • Learn and apply human-centered design
  • Test their ideas
  • Gain digital and leadership skills
  • Learn healthy habits to work collaboratively
  • Prioritize the human need over the financial or technological resources available
  • Consult with field experts to refine their ideas
  • Learn to create a strategic outline of their project
  • Defy career stereotypes and help universities step up their game
  • Be part of a vision that transcends borders

Don't miss our pitch deck!

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

This is designed mainly for junior/senior high school students, but also uses the past to inspire the future. It engages students in creating solutions to the things that move them, thus building a sense of purpose. But it also helps build confidence because they collaborate in a multidisciplinary, multigenerational space. It's hard to keep up with the job market, but if you challenge career stereotypes, learn healthy teamwork habits and find your passion, the whole educational system benefits.

This idea emerged from:

  • An individual
  • A Design Jam or Workshop event

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

OpenIDEO community, "Mik" needs us to support these young students with our feedback, our contacts and expertise. Our students will need to validate their ideas, interview experts, learn about other cultures and feel the thrill of putting your ideas out there. We'll need special support from more web/graphic designers and business-savvy people, who can give a hand with the graphic identity of the projects, and/or reviewing the financial sustainability of a proposal. THANK YOU!!

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

As of February 6th, we'll start our first Mik pilot at Humboldt School, a German-Costa Rican school in the capital city San Jose, Costa Rica. We've gathered a group of 25 students (male and female), from junior and senior years, who will be working on their projects throughout the semester.

Tell us about your work experience:

I'm a multimedia journalist, currently working on a content lab specialized in transmedia and VR productions. I'm an ambassador for Chicas Poderosas, an international organization that works to empower women through digital and leadership skills. Through Chicas Poderosas I also started working with The 19 Million Project, an international initiative dedicated to generating solutions for refugees and migrants mainly in the Mediterranean and Latin America.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Gaby,

Thank you for sharing Mik with us. What sort of projects will the teams be working on? Would you be able to give an example of a project and the type of professionals that you would need to support the project?

There are a few ideas that might spark some thoughts e.g. The MatchMaker Product Based Education and Schematic Co 

Photo of Gaby Brenes

Hi Kate,

Thank you so much for your input! :) While the projects for this first Mik pilot are yet to be decided, we have a use case that kind of serves as an example. After some human-centered design (HCD) sprints, one group developed an "Uber-like" platform to match students with subject-tutors. A few students graduated from high school and now work at this startup. A different group did some HCD exercises, and it resulted in a few organizational changes in the Costa Rica National System of Artistic Education for Social Inclusion.

Regarding the type of professionals, some will provide assistance to every team, others will be sought "ad hoc".
Certain professionals will provide counseling to all the team members, for example mentors who can teach about storytelling, visual communication, presentation/pitch design, public speaking, business model, etc.
Other professionals will serve as topic counselors depending on the projects at hand. For instance, many students are interested in forced migration and refugees because Costa Rica is one of the main destinations for migrants in Central America and the Caribbean. These teams will require the expertise of social workers, policy makers, sociologists, etc. Fortunately, there are various professionals willing to contribute with their time and expertise on that subject.

We also have contacted various organizations who will be part of a kick-off event for the proper design thinking sprint. These organizations will "pitch" different issues they're facing right now, so it can help students spark their creativity and identify needs and opportunities to work on. Some of the main topics are: gender equality, sustainable energy, animal protection, access to education, migration and refugees, public healthcare and housing.

One of the things I find important is that the results of these projects may serve as feedback to our universities, so they can step up their game, update their curriculum and allow more experimental instances for students to develop their ideas.

Mik is still a work in progress, of course, so we welcome any constructive feedback that can help us improve this initiative. Any thoughts about that? Thank you for taking the time to review this and provide such helpful feedback :D