Pursuing Social Innovation | Elisa
Looking back on the past two years I had spent pursuing a Master of Studies (MSt) in Social Innovation at Cambridge Judge Business School, I can only describe it as my best education experience. It’s not every day that you get to be surrounded by people who share the same heartbeat for the things you care about, and I found exactly that in my school community. I gained so much more than just knowledge about social innovation. I also gained lifelong friends, the precious space to dream bigger, and the tools to make those dreams of social change come to life through growing Will & Well.
Expanding My Worldview
Social innovation involves designing novel solutions to effectively meet societal needs, and much of it is actually influenced by culture. One of my favourite parts of the course was learning from lecturers and peers whose diverse cultural experiences made the lessons richer. It was eye-opening to hear about their experiences from businesses in South Africa to refugee work in Thailand.
Having a meal together with some friends from the cohort in a restaurant (above).
A group photo with some friends from the cohort during a Christmas party in 2019 (above).
We also discussed organisational change and systems, and processes that could be implemented in different cultural settings. Interestingly, these processes could work anywhere as long as they contributed to the well-being of the people and environment. Because of this common goal to benefit society, my peers and I could always come to the same conclusion at the end of all our debates and discussions.
Home is Where the Heart Is
When I applied for the programme, my initial intention was to explore other areas of social innovation. However, every assignment I worked on naturally led back to what we were already doing at Will & Well. I developed ideas to expand our social impact through areas apart from fashion, for the communities related to those we were already serving. Although writing papers was always a stressful and desperate time filled with prayers for inspiration, it was rewarding to gain ideas for Will & Well’s growth through this process.
For my dissertation, I examined the impact of inclusive work practices for persons with special needs through conducting a case study with Mustard Tree – a local enterprise which empowers artisans with special needs to hone their craft and earn a sustainable living. From my time with them, I gained many friendships and insights (look out for a future blog post to find out more!).
Time to Dream
After having spent some time in the workforce, I now view education as a luxury (something the younger me would not have related to). I love having the space and platform to simply dream and discover more needs in the world through my readings.
"Thinking Through Drawing" by Michelle Fava Darlington ― One of the workshops during the cohort's first residential on campus (above).
Source: Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation (above).
Funny story: when I submitted my final paper, I cried. I was so upset that my education journey had ended and missed it so much already! Although I was very tempted to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), it probably would not be in the near future as there is still a lot more work to be done and lessons to be gained from the workforce at this time. Hopefully, I will be able to dream again in a school or whatever other channels that might allow it one day.
The People Who…
Made the Journey Enjoyable
My most valuable takeaway from the course would be my peers whom I met and learnt with over the two years. They made the entire experience absolutely amazing as we turned out to be kindred spirits. Despite our different backgrounds, we ultimately cared about the same things – the chaos that’s happening around the world and doing our best to bring about positive impact for the good of people and society. They created such a safe space for me that I never felt alone when with them.
A selfie with some friends at a Christmas party in 2019 (left) and another selfie on campus with a friend from the same cohort (right).
A selfie with two other friends while in a boat on River Cam (above).
A group selfie with some friends under the University of Cambridge, Judge Business School gate (above).
Recently, we got to reunite at our graduation ceremony in the UK and it was an amazing time which reminded me of just how much I love them and am thankful for them. They truly made my two years pursuing a Master's absolutely worth it!
A candid group photo with Cohort Four on graduation day in April 2022 (above).
A few photos with friends in our graduation gowns (above).
Made the Journey Possible
Of course, this journey would not have been possible without the many people who have been gracious and caring to me in big and small ways.
Firstly, I am extremely thankful for everyone in the Will & Well team (past and present) for keeping the good work going and enabling me to take time off to pursue my studies. I am especially grateful to Cheryl, for being so understanding throughout the two years whenever I had to take time off for school; She held the fort at Will & Well, making it possible for me to focus on my writing and finish my assignments. She was also very supportive, constantly checking in on me and even making sure that I was making progress on my assignments! Juggling school and work definitely wasn’t easy, but I appreciate the team for making it easier.
I am also thankful for my loved ones who supported me through the pain of writing every paper and celebrated with me in every success. For instance, my mum would lovingly make sure that I was well-fed and energised to write while my youngest sister would make time to give me feedback on my papers. My friends were also understanding when I needed space to focus on school. These were the little things that made all the difference.
From the very first moment, I knew that this opportunity was a gift from God. All thanks be to Him for providing for me and seeing me through the two years.
One big goal I have set for myself is to continue doing social innovation work. Similar to how Will & Well has evolved from focusing on fashion to other areas like games and education, I hope to be able to continue creating different solutions to meet different societal needs. Eventually, I hope to reach a place where we can bring about positive social change in whatever position I am placed in.
For now, I will continue to dream, work towards my goal, and lead the team towards it.