Our group learned a lot over the course of this project because we were able to choose a real life problem and then work to find a plausible and effective solution. The real life nature of this project made us feel as though our project had the potential to impact the lives of our Denver community. As a result, we worked hard to come up with a new and innovative solution to help lower high school dropout rates. By breaking the project up, we really learned the value of each stage. Whether that was Problem Analysis, Solution Design, or Implementation Plan, we learned the importance of thinking through each phase in order to come up with the best solution. To start off, we had to do thorough research on Denver Public Schools dropout rate in order to see what was at the core of the problem and what is currently being done to address it. It was very beneficial that our group was composed of athletes, because it provided a unique perspective on the benefits sports can provide, and how we can use that to make a difference in Denver. Overall, we thought that tackling this problem start to finish really taught me a lot.
Doing this project over the 8 weeks really opened our eyes to the reality of how complicated it is to start any business, or create a product, or even just a program like ours. There are so many logistical things that need to be sorted out before any real action can be taken. One thing our group found out during our presentation is when we showed our ideas to a new audience they were able to identify areas that we had not fully considered. We think this brings up a few good things to consider moving forward in the business school. When dealing with new ideas to tackle serious social problems they have to be completely thought out before they can be put into action. In order to completely think out these issues, there needs to be time to really reflect on the solution and present it to new people who will be able to identify any missing aspects to the solution.
We found that insight gained from reaching out to and talking with stakeholders was invaluable. After conversations with stakeholders, our solution totally took a turn. Our group initially thought we were going to create our own after school league. However, after talking to Effley, a stakeholder, we realized that the equipment cost was the number one reason why students of lower socioeconomic backgrounds cannot play stick sports. This is not something we had found in all of the research we previously conducted. As a result of talking to him, our group took our project in a semi-different direction. It is always helpful to reach out to additional stakeholders during the problem analysis and solution design phase because they can offer you perspectives that you hadn’t thought of before.
Our team also learned that systems mapping can be a valuable tool. Before this class, none of us had ever done or even seen a systems map. However, we quickly learned that systems mapping was an effective and efficient way to visualize how our entire project is all interconnected. The systems map allowed us to see how different aspects of our project were related to each other. Systems thinking was also helpful for me to identify the complexity behind my project. For example, when we used systems mapping our group was trying to determine the root cause of high school dropout rates. However, we soon realized that there was not one cause we could pinpoint for high dropout rates. There are a variety of reasons and they are all interconnected amongst each other. For example, our group identified that poverty and poor family structure are two of the main reasons for high school dropout rates. This was backed up by research. If you come from a single family home, you are more likely to be under the poverty line. The systems map helped us visually see the links between various causes and ultimately helped us identify the root of our problem.
There was one speaker that as a group we felt the most applicable to the creation of our project: the one on community involvement. He was speaking on the importance of asking a community what they need rather than assuming and inserting yourself in blindly. It has become increasingly important for companies and corporations to give back to their communities, and so this is a very important concept to understand in moving forward. He was saying how the best approach is going into the community and empathizing with them in order to determine how you can best make an impact. He also shared his personal approach and how he builds relationships with communities. He spoke about spending time with them in their native environment, which he said was pivotal in instilling trust and giving him a better understanding of the people. Secondly, he says he hears from them what their specific needs are. This was one of the speakers that resonated with us because since our project is geared to make a difference in a community, we learned that we had to go in there and ask what they needed. This is where the stakeholder interviews came in once again. It was by talking to people who were more connected to the actual problem we were addressing we found the most effective way to create change.
We also learned about what it means to be professional. Not only were we tackling real issues, the presentations and pitches in front of real judges taught us the difference between an informational presentation and a pitch, and how the element of persuasion is key. We talked as a group about how we all feel more prepared for things like interviews and business pitches and public speaking in general in the future. Additionally, we feel more experienced with how to do a pitch similar to telling a story, and to get your audience to understand the “why” behind what you’re doing and not just what you are doing or how you are doing it. This part of the course is something we feel that will stay with us for the rest of our academic and professional careers.