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Broaden Horizons and Develop Problem Solvers

Students develop skills while learning about real problems in the community.

Photo of Brandy Nagel
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During a social entrepreneurship class we asked students to form teams (3 to 5 members) and identify a problem on campus or in the community. (We had a handful of problems ready to share if a team needed suggestions). The teams were encouraged to work together to write a problem statement and identify the beneficiaries and stakeholders

Then we asked them to conduct 10 to 15 "customer discovery" interviews - to better understand the problem. The homework assignment included journal keeping (for reflection and data collection). Each team was asked to present what they learned a week later.

For this class, the goal is not to propose one right answer, but to begin to understand a complex problem and consider many possible solutions. We asked teams:

  • Who did you talk to?
  • What did you learn?
  • What could you do next?

As a result we saw increased civic engagement, improved understanding of complex problems and empathy. Teams connected with the community through a health care center, a homeless shelter and a corporate philanthropic foundation.

We focused on these skills: listening to understand, presenting what they learned, working as a team, and fact-finding.

Specifically, please check all that apply:

  • A classroom or academic assignment

Tell us about your work experience:

I am a faculty researcher and an entrepreneurship educator. I work with students, faculty and staff to create startups and develop innovative solutions to serious problems. In addition to my work at Georgia Tech, I work with schools around the world on innovation, commercialization and entrepreneurship initiatives.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Problem solving skills for the future: The goal is to understand a complex problem and develop many possible solutions. Teach students to listen, to collaborate and to connect with the community.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Naman Mandhan

Hi Brandy!

I love this idea of bringing people together to identify and understand problems within their community. I think that an integral step in the process of solving problems is to properly understand them and their stakeholders first, and having a collaborative effort to do that can definitely lead to some great results.

I recently proposed a similar idea, with on a focus on collaboration for the solution after a problem has been identified. What are your thoughts on Chicken Soup for the Learning Soul ?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how we could potentially bring our two ideas together!

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