In 2012, I stumbled into the field of higher education. I was interested in pursuing an MBA but wasn’t sure if a formal program was the best next step for me. So, I designed my own program, which took me around the world and through twelve projects in twelve months. I called this endeavor The Leap Year Project. (Yes, it all went down during a calendar Leap Year). Those months led me into a field that I never considered exploring – experiential learning.
Since then, I’ve wondered what it might look like to support people who need to design leaps of their own. Experience Institute has become our home base. It’s the school where thinkers, makers and doers dive headlong into the concept of experiential learning. But what about people for whom EI is not the right fit? Can we help a wider set of individuals design their own learning, at any season in life? What resources and tools would we need?
Now, 2016 is around the corner -- another leap year. EI’s surrounding team and I have wondered if this could be the year to package everything we’ve learned and share it with others. After a few conversations with our friends at the d.school, we joined their Experimenter Studio – a group of educators, strategists, and designers aiming to try radical ideas in quick bursts to impact higher education. We ran a mini version of Leap Year, turning it around in three weeks.
Let’s start with this video:
The experiment had four questions:
- Would the Leap Year Project brand/call to action still be applicable given four years had passed since we started?
- What kind of “launchpad” does a leap need? (ie: workshops, barn raising, etc)
- What type of physical materials would best support Leapers?
- How might Leapers build and activate communities of support?
Obviously, those were some heavy questions; but we had cleared our schedules for the three-week deep-dive into the project.
Photos by Victor Saad and Dane Johnson
The following three weeks were chock-full of travel, people, events, and synthesizing all types of learnings. We hosted four 90-minute workshops in three cities: Palo Alto, Berlin and Paris. The international locations were made possible by a host of friends from the d.school’s “d.global” initiative. We’re particularly thankful for the assistance from Erik Olesund, Tania Anaissie, George Kembel, Rico Andrade, and the incredible hosts and attendees who joined us.
We learned that the power of a bigger mission, story and community coupled with a simple process has great ability to motivate action. Yet, no matter how strong a brand might be, nothing is more powerful than accountability. Embarking upon anything new is more likely to succeed within already established rhythms of community (class, work, church, etc). Otherwise, it’s helpful to suggest and celebrate new rhythms within newly formed communities.
We were also able to refine our physical tools – minimizing on the number of things each participant needed while focusing more on the elements they found delightful. (I’m still surprised by how much everyone loves large sheets of paper when brainstorming and planning!)
Finally, we were pushed to consider the outcomes of taking a leap. If Leaping nudges individuals into a hobby, it may fall short of its potential. However, if we can steer the project to invite acts that truly stretch and teach individuals and then help share the stories in a beautiful manner, Leaping could become a new way to navigate points of transition that launch individuals into their careers, formal education, or next life steps with confidence and clarity. It can decrease how much debt someone incurs on higher education while also creating a new cue/signal to employers as they’re looking for great talent (ie: Individuals who take Leaps are creative, self aware, positive, hard working, etc).
All of those lessons led us to continue down the path of creating Leap Kit. We’ve refined our process, streamlined the physical tools, and continued building the community. The Kickstarter is live for the rest of the month and we couldn’t be more excited to share this with new and old friends alike.
And, thanks again to the wonderful crew behind the d.school. The students, staff, and I have learned more than we can share through our collaborations over the past two years, and we’re sure there’s more to come!
Victor Saad is the founder of Experience Institute and author of "The Leap Year Project". He is listed among Forbes 30 under 30 in Education for 2015. The Leap Kit will be available for support via Kickstarter for the remainder of the month of October.