This article is published as part of MUN Spotlight, a special series dedicated to student programs and conferences from around the globe. The aim of this series is to introduce student programs to our MUNPlanet audience and beyond. Today with us is Geraldine Hepp,
MUNPlanet: Please introduce yourself and your program to our community.
Hey, my name is Geraldine Hepp and I am passionate about helping people take their work in social change to the next level through networks, trainings and coaching - both to help you increase your impact but also to help you build an actual career around this work so you can be sustainable while creating sustainable change.
I am lucky to work with one of the - in my opinion - most exciting educational initiatives out there that try to tackle the skill-gap in the social change sector. The skill-gap issue is mostly talked about with regards to how Universities don’t prepare us properly for private sector careers, but considering the urgency of some of our toughest challenges globally we believe that the actual problem is that we need to train our best minds and hearts with the right professional skills and experiences to create effective change. And we need to link up to make this happen in a global network of changemakers.
Amani Institute’s Post-Graduate Certificate in Social Innovation Management is doing exactly that - connect you with amazing global experts at the forefront of innovation to help you take your professional skills to ninja-levels, build a global community, give you on-the-ground experience in one of the most exciting global hubs for Social Innovation (either Kenya or Brazil) and help you develop as a leader through coaching and mentorship. The program consists of 6 months online learning and 4 months on the ground in either Sao Paulo or Nairobi.
MUNPlanet: In one sentence, tell us why everyone should pick this program over the other ones?
All of our challenges are occurring locally but are global by nature - if you are serious about building a career as a Changemaker you have to get international experience that has substance and equips you with deeper understanding of your Self and the world, as well as an impactful global network.
MUNPlanet: This program is organized under Amani Institute. Would you mind presenting the organization to us?
Amani Institute started out in 2012 based on the insights of two senior-level managers at Ashoka, a global organization supporting Social Entrepreneurs: One of the biggest challenges of Changemakers everywhere in the world is not money but finding the talent to scale up good ideas. Considering that there is not an equivalent to a medical training school or an athletic training program for Changemakers, Ilaina Rabbat and Roshan Paul set out to create a higher education model that is able to prepare people for the most challenging work in a sector that direly needs innovation. Amani Institute partners with Universities all over the world to help create better programs but also enable our Fellows to continue their education for formal accreditation - for example via an MBA in Social Innovation Management with Lynn University in Florida, USA or a Diploma in Social Innovation at UPEACE CEE - the United Nations Mandated University for Peace’s Center for Executive Education.
Amani Institute also offers customized training programs for Social Enterprises, NGOs and Foundations to help increase their impact and build leadership within organizations. You can learn more about our work in our online brochure here.
MUNPlanet: What are the main principles that The Post Graduate Certificate in Social Innovation Management stands for?
Looking deep into what makes Changemakers impactful and sustainable in the long run as well as what employers say they see as the biggest talent need in the sector, Amani Institute built the Social Innovation Management program around five core values: Vision, Courage, Empathy, an ethos of Changemaking and a Global Mindset. You can read more about our values and how we define them here.
MUNPlanet: What makes it different from traditional universities?
The program is built in a way that responds to how adults actually learn - experientially, through examples and reflection, in direct exchange with experts and applied learning on the job. Fellows engage online as well as on the ground, balancing actual work with input, exercises and continued practice. One of the biggest value ads is the intensive immersion in a global hub for social innovation in the global south which enables you to build an extensive network and CV-worthy experience on the ground in an organization of your interest (or you work on your own project!). These elements are structured in four pillars: Insight, Experience, Expertise and Acceleration.
MUNPlanet: Why is informal education so important nowadays and how to break down the barriers between the classroom and society?
Informal education is important - but it has to be balanced with reflection, practice, as well as input and challenges from experts who can mentor you along the way. Academic institutions are trying to change but are not ready yet to allow us to learn in a way that builds actual skills - we learn ABOUT skills but oftentime not the actual skills themselves. By positioning global experts rather than academics at the center of your learning experience we break down the walls between class-room and society and even take this further by connecting your work-experience directly with your learning process as well as taking you to exciting case-studies on the ground.
MUNPlanet: You say that this program to equivalent to a 2-year traditional master degree? Elaborate this to our readers.
The intensity and structure of the program allows for a learning immersion that has been compared in impact and worth equivalent if not more relevant than a 2-year traditional master’s degree. This program offers you the possibility for actual transformation while also giving you the hard data-points for references: real work experience and an incredible network that is an asset to any organization you will start or join, workshops taught by global leaders in the most relevant professional skills area and an innovation project you build yourself during the program that you can share as an example for what you can do.
If you want to, however, you can apply for an actual MBA in Social Innovation Management after finishing our program. Through our partnership with one of the most innovative Universities in the USA, Lynn University, our program now counts 25% towards their MBA that you then can also finish online.
MUNPlanet: What certifications do participants get once they complete the education?
Fellows receive a Certificate in Social Innovation Management that is highly desired by our Employer Partners and recognized in our different continued education partnerships with UPEACE and Lynn University.
MUNPlanet: How many people does it take to organize a program like this? Tell us about your team members.
MUNPlanet: You said you insist on focusing on the individual’s own journey. Tell us more.
The best ideas how to tackle a social challenge with great impact are worthless if you can’t make them happen. It’s easy as that.
Knowledge alone is not enough. You need the skills and experiences and the personal stamina to keep doing this work in the long run and not give up too early as well as a personal practice that can help you identify your strengths but also your weak points and how to transform them or work with them in a way that doesn’t harm the successful implementation of your idea.
Changemakers, more than any other professionals, have to know how to change themselves before they go out and try to change the world. Because changing the world means changing people. And that is really, really, really hard work.
MUNPlanet: What does the perfect participant looks like?
The perfect participant is determined to become a better Changemaker and has the vision, courage and global mindset to make it happen. If you want to increase the impact of your work or want to jump-start your career in social change, this is for you. You either have a degree or 3 years professional experience in the private or social change sector.
MUNPlanet: Is it necessary for your participants to pre-prepare for the program?
No - the program starts with an online Foundation phase that serves as a preparation for the program.
MUNPlanet: Attending a program such as yours empowers a young people to start working on solving the issues in their local communities and beyond. This is achieved through sets of skills that they gain through the program. In all of the projects that you did so far, what was the one action or a project executed by one of your alumni that you are really proud of?
We are proud of a lot of our Alumni - the ones I would like to share with you are Jesah from the US and Ciru from Kenya, who started their own Social Enterprise after completing the program, called Plastic Fantastic, changing mindsets around plastic pollution and providing economic opportunity for rural women by upcycling materials into beautiful products. Another interesting story is Rodolphe from France, who went on a journey to investigate the Collaborative Economy with a project called ‘The Sharing Bros’.
MUNPlanet: I believe that we are speaking in the name of all our readers when we say that this really does sound attractive. Can we expect more opportunities like this in the future?
Yes, there is a surge of interesting education programs springing up everywhere in the world focusing on training Changemakers, both on University level as well as in more experimental initiatives. Each one has a unique value offer and we believe that if our program is right for you, you will find your way to us!
MUNPlanet: Final question: What is the one thought that you want all of your participants to leave with once they are through with the program?
From ‘impossible’ to “I’m possible”: You can actually change the world because we are many and we are not satisfied with traditional ways of doing change, we are looking for the best and most impactful answers.
MUNPlanet: Thank you for devoting your time to MUN Spotlight and telling us more about you and your program. MUNPlanet strongly advises all members to check it out. Good luck!
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