Highlight: Women as Social Innovators
Today Citizen Circles is highlighting Women as Social Innovators, a new global citizen circle launching as part of the new semester starting at P2PU on January 26th, by interviewing co-organizer Julie Bowes. Julie currently works for a small DC-based non-profit, Machik, focused on grassroots capacity-building on the Tibetan plateau. She is also coordinating intergenerational skills exchanges, study circles and volunteering to build understanding between generations and to engage and empower older and isolated community members.
Since December, Julie and co-organizer Laura White have been building a menu of existing resources, activities, discussion topics, project ideas and more which participants will be invited to mold into a learning plan according to their needs and goals in their own local citizen circles. They have also created an example of how to organize those resources to help participants get started, which you can preview on the course profile on P2PU.
Laura, an undergraduate student at Tulane in the Teacher Certification Program, said that “Women as Social Innovators is shaping up to be an exciting learning opportunity for students on our campus. We’ll be exploring opportunities and challenges female changemakers face, and from that, we’ll be better able to make change ourselves.”
Why did you decide to launch this citizen circle?
I think there’s a real information gap in what’s available for women in the business and innovation world. The more I’ve researched for this citizen circle, the more I’ve realized that we’re filling a niche. So much of the material that exists on “women’s empowerment” is targeted at women pulling themselves out of extreme poverty and social inequalities in developing countries. We may share some of the same root issues, but the resources required are very different. There’s very little available in terms of concrete and practical information for educated women who have fresh and innovative ideas, but feel held back by societal pressures, by workplace discrimination or by their own struggles to recognize the assets they have to offer. I want to create a space for participants to think about and work through these issues as well as the strengths and challenges they possess both individually and as a group.
What goals do you have for this citizen circle?
I hope participants will leave the course feeling empowered, self-aware, and more cognizant of the general landscape of challenges and opportunities they will face in their careers. And since this is peer-to-peer, I also hope to learn from my fellow participants and come out with a renewed confidence, better able to pitch myself and my ideas.
What kind of people are you hoping to join? What interests should they have?
Most of our applicants have been women, but that’s certainly not a necessity. We hope to have participants who are passionate about social innovation and who appreciate the need for viewing innovation and entrepreneurship through a gender lens. We want participants who are open to meaningful self-critique, who can identify specific skill sets that will serve them as innovators and who are driven to pursue these skills in an action-oriented way. We don’t want this to be a chore, but an opportunity for participants to engage in meaningful conversation and experiential learning in a topic that they find relevant and pressing in their own lives.
There are many ways you could have organized this course. What was it about the citizen circles model in particular that you were drawn to?
So much of this course is about empowering the participants to recognize the value of their knowledge and experience. Peer-to-peer learning, and particularly study circles, are such a powerful way to actualize this empowerment. By encouraging co-created curriculum, we’re sending the message that every participant has something of value to bring to the group and creating the space for this self-reflection to occur.
The face-to-face component, to me, is essential. Working in small, local groups, participants will have the opportunity to engage in substantial, project-based learning, all the while receiving feedback and positive critique from their peers. In connecting with citizen circles in other areas, we can then share insights, best practices, and generally broaden the scope of our learning. In combination, I think these will create a dynamic forum for inspiring confident and purpose-driven citizens.