Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Power of... this Amazing Class

PoST 1/30/09: “The Power of… this class”

I remember the first day our class met – Professor Aaker jokingly stated that we had all taken a pretty big risk by enrolling in this class given that it had never been offered before and who knew if it would actually be a worthwhile elective. Well I think after today’s class people without a doubt know that we each made a good decision. We had the chance to get a short preview of each PODs endeavor to improve the lives of others via in-home ethnography presentations. What became clear very quickly is that the opportunities people are creating and pursuing in an effort to impact social change through this class are simply amazing.

The class began with Professor Aaker discussing how to cultivate social change by doing good with sincere warmth and shocking effectiveness. Pat Christensen, CEO of HopeLab ( was then introduced and spoke to us about being effective listeners via the following:
- Be extremely humble
- Show high regard and respect for other people
- Suspend judgement
- Be cognizant of how much you are talking vs. listening

HopLab is remarkable organization – they are pioneers in combining rigorous research with innovative solutions to improve the health and lives of young people with chronic illnesses. What a treat to be able to hear from Pat!

Each POD then presented a short synopsis of the in-home ethnography study they conducted. Below is a short summary of a few of the different POD concepts. Before diving into the ethnographies, a few key take-aways the entire class gained from are as follows:
- The biggest surprises from an ethnography are often the best learnings.
- The key is to take those learnings and figure out how to create an impactful story and/or product that will rally people around your cause.
- Sticky stories, particularly about an underdog situation, resonate well.
- A key influential person can be key to your cause – while Barack Obama is probably not available, find a person that can make your cause “flammable” and empower others to light a match!

- This POD wants to bring the benefits of social networking to those that are less comfortable sharing their private info with strangers. The surprise learning for this group has been that a desire for privacy does NOT always equal anti-social.

Middle School Girls
- The goal of this POD is to match young girls with organizations and individuals that help them find and develop their passion. The group showed a fantastic slide preso of the teenage girls they’ve met set to K.T. Tunstall’s hit song “Suddenly I See” – great story! We discussed the concept of a perfect moment and what that means in our quest to help the life of an individual.

College Football BCS Reform
- This group has learned very quickly that the BCS system is full of potential collusion and side deals that has created an under-current of disdain from fans and non-BCS schools. Feedback to this group centered around 1) Educate 2) Be enraged and 3) Present a solution.

Organ Donation
- Donors are Sexy” was the theme this POD has been promoting. They educated us on the fact that family decisions at the time of death determine whether or not your organs can be donated or not regardless of what is indicated on your driver’s license. As a result, only 45% of families permit organ donation of a deceased family member. Their goal is to put a more positive light on organ donation and address it via humor.

Helping Incarcerated Girls through the power of Yoga
-This POD is passionate about helping incarcerated girls through the power of Yoga.

Removing Barriers to Education
- This team is working to help students at an East Palo Alto Charter School achieve their dreams of going to college. The ethnography focused on telling the stories behind the school and the children that are students there. The power of their findings came through as they contrasted the dreary, run down exterior of the building with the bright yellow interior walls that are covered with college penants and banners.

It was enriching and moving to see everyone’s POD projects coming to life. We have 6 weeks to go, but as I started this post off saying, it is already quite clear that this class has the power to be the most memorable class any of us takes at the GSB as well as a remarkable conduit to effect social change.

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