We are living in an age of rapid transformation and rethinking. Now more than ever, people around the world are questioning the way we’ve done things in the past, and have decided to envision a new future. But, in a world that moves fast — where there are no predictable outcomes — how do you define what skills are needed to change the world? There are no set pathways, no determined skill sets.
In May of 2014, DSI sent its first class of alumni out into the “real world”. These students were armed with not one set of hard-skills or a step-by-step playbook for changing the world, but rather with a collection of insights on how to look at the world (and its solutions) in a different way. Prepared with these methodologies, each student took a path as unique as the one that brought them to our bright yellow walls.
Monica Snellings, of this brave first cohort, is now a Communications Director and Community Builder at Education Reimagined — an initiative of Convergence: Center for Policy Resolution. Education Reimagined centers on bringing different voices together to create a shared vision to transform the future of education.
“Transformation, not reformation” Monica tells me over the phone. Because, to move our education systems forward, we must transform our outdated industrial era systems into ones that can provide children with the skills they need to flourish in this new era.
Monica Snellings is not new to policy. Before returning to graduate school Monica spent over 20 years as a graphic designer working with government agencies and nonprofit organizations in the development of behavior, policy, and strategic communication materials.
But as many designers have experienced, Monica was brought in at the end of these processes. She grew tired of putting lipstick on whatever decisions had been handed to her. “I wanted to be involved at the start of the process, when the formative questions were being asked and answered. When projects ended up on my desk I had so many questions around why they were the way they were.”
These questions brought her to DSI. She wasn’t interested in a getting another degree that pigeonholed her, but rather a degree that gave her the tools to enter conversations and to be an asset to an organization in many ways.
Over the last year, Education Reimagined convened six two day meetings with twenty-eight education practitioners, out of these meeting came a new initiative and a vision document, due to be released on October 29th. Not an easy feat, but the skills Monica has taken from DSI have helped her navigate the challenges that inevitably come with bringing many people from different backgrounds into a room.
“It’s all Theory U” Monica laughs, mentioning a theory which we learn in the first semester, Fundamentals of Design for Social Innovation class taught by the wonderful Marc Rettig and Hannah du Plessis. Monica further explains “once people came together and saw each other as human beings they were able to create something together.”
But mostly, Monica doesn’t talk about the tangible skills she learned while in the program. Though we do learn things like basic programing, creating a business plan, and facilitation methods. What she talks about most is how she learned a holistic way of thinking about the world, and the people in it; how to tackle issues from multiple angles and perspectives.
“I can see pieces of all my classes present in the work I do” Monica tells me, “from the ability to understand the patience and incrementalism that it takes to build a movement, to how to bring people together, and work through agreements in a respectful way”.