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Turning great ideas into tangible solutions together

Global citizenship is about working together, across divides, to turn great ideas into tangible solutions that benefit local communities across the world. Here are some of our experience about collaborative actions to develop shared solutions.

Coming from different parts of the world and being passionate about the same issue brings people together. That said, it takes quite a bit of effort to really tackle issue beyond discussing it. Among many other things, it entails finding common ground that allows you to implement meaningful action and effectively contribute to the solution of the problem on the ground. The latter is what global citizenship is also about and here are some of our experience about what it takes to effectively work together, across divides, to turn great ideas into tangible solutions that benefit local communities across the world.

At the Global Citizenship Conference (GCC) 2017 in Ghana, around 50 Melton Fellows, together with practitioners of global citizenship from local and global communities explored pressing global issues in depth and put their passion and drive into designing solutions to some of these. Our Fellows formed five teams and left the conference with the spirit and drive to co-develop simple yet meaningful projects together within the following 10 months. 10 month is a long time and, although you may have the best intentions, change-makers also get pulled away by regular business and duties. One thing is for sure: making a sustained difference together requires constant reminders about your passion and good intentions.

How do Melton Fellows make ends meet between their drive to make a meaningful difference as global citizens and their already busy life? In collaboration with our partners at HPI School of Design Thinking in Potsdam, Germany, we have developed an approach that allows our Fellows to build awareness, grow their sense of responsibility and act collaboratively at the same time. Based on the Design Thinking mindset, Fellows follow a step by step process that supports them to gradually develop their idea based on real needs and experiences from across the world so that it can be implemented as a project, together with the team and the stakeholders from their communities.

As soon as Fellows had returned from the GCC in Ghana, they set out to explore the issues they are passionate about in their local context. In this first step, each team member went back home with one task: understand the issue and identify opportunities and inspiration for the project. They did explorative research by interviewing organizations working in the respective field and by talking to affected people. Team members shared their insights and together they arrived at an interrogative problem statement: How might we help our defined person overcome our identified issue? This allowed them to embrace an issue too big to grasp in their teams and break it down into small manageable pieces, that can effectively be tackled in one or multiple communities locally.

You know happened next? The brainstorm! Imagine a team of young motivated people from across the globe brainstorming with dedicated mentors online. The virtual space was no barrier to go wild and crazy: many an idea was put on the table, from very pragmatic to to completely unfeasible. But then again, what’s not feasible? The power of the team made it possible to consider unconventional approaches and turn them into a feasible idea. To make sure that everyone in the team is on the same page and to land at a better understanding of each other’s perspectives, Fellows created a visualization of their idea(s) as s/he understands it. To no surprise, this again provided new insights and room for creative exploration.

Our five Project Teams have now developed a clear idea of what exactly they will work on in the months to come. But before going full force into implementation, the project teams are working on a prototype. This allows them to test their assumptions and get a better sense of how affected communities respond to the solution in the making. Our Fellows are currently out there testing the idea and gathering feedback on the prototype and soon they will come together again to harvest their learning, refine the idea and implement it at scale.

Let’s take a closer look at each team:

Project Team 1
Everything started with six Fellows passionate about sustainability. The term sustainability is everything and nothing. How to address something that sounds so conceptual and is difficult to grasp? Team members started exploring their communities for initiatives on sustainability. Magically the team came to this one common aspect: Waste Management. Joshua joined an organization in New Orleans to recycle Mardi Gras beans, Tao explores the possibility to organize a field visit to a landfill near Hangzhou, Constanza partners with a recycling initiative to improve recycling at Universidad de la Frontera (UFRO), Temuco, Chile and Tito, Cynthia and Henrika use methods from the recycling initiative at UFRO to apply them at Ashesi in Ghana. The work has just begun, and updates shall follow…

Project Team 2
What must a digital solution look like to help individuals take care of their mental health? This is what six Fellows from India, Ghana and China are currently exploring. Based on their interviews with psychologists and people with mental health issues, they understood that a digital solution needs to have two core-components. On the one hand it should be able to track users’ moods and help identify the conditions that provoke mood changes. On the other hand, it should support the users, comforting them during difficult moments by, for example, tapping into the therapeutic potential of art.

Project Team 3
Design a way to connect stories from different parts of the globe in a meaningful way. Alana, Cami, Destiny, Nana-Ama. Zhentao and Ziqi love to create stories and know that storytelling is a powerful tool to inspire fellow humans. They started their project searching for sources of topics and inspiration to identify what stories to tell and how to tell them. Each of the team members has identified a topic that resonates most with them and they are looking forward to create short videos to tell the stories. Alana wants to inspire students to go abroad. Cami is taking on the topic of Aids and HIV testing. Destiny wants to tackle the topic of homelessness and wants others to connect with people affected by it. Nana Ama is challenging our concept of love. Zhentao decided to confront us with our prejudices and the things we simply take for granted. And, last but not least, Ziqi offers insights into the LGBTQI community. May the storytelling begin …

Project Team 4
The initial question of the Project Team on Post Colonialism was: How can we raise awareness of how people experience power dynamics that play out between the colonized and the colonizers in todays world? A big and powerful question that gives a lot to chew on. This passionate team with members from China, Ghana, India and Germany explored every detail of Post-Colonialism. They interviewed experienced Melton Fellows and local experts on the issue, did extensive reading and become aware of hidden post-colonial structures. Now they are working on a format to make their insights accessible with an appealing video.

Project Team 5
How can our communities be more aware of the importance of Mental Health and support each other with the challenges to those suffering from mental illnesses. The team members have looked at many different approaches and are exploring what works best in each of their context. Andy and Vale from Universidad de la Frontera (UFRO) want to create a program at their university on mental health and are currently exploring the needs and previous knowledge of UFRO students on that issue. Jiawen wants to provide a space at Zhejiang University (ZU) to talk about the individual struggles on mental health. Hejun wants to work with kids on the aspect of mental health by including it into the Global Citizenship In Schools project, where Melton Fellows and friends from ZU work with young children in a rural school near Hangzhou, China.