ATLAS Week Challenge

April 7, 2016
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After almost a year of working for Parks College, I participated in the Weekly Innovation Challenge for the first time.  I convinced my teammates, Sue and Chris, to join me so that we would have some additional teams for the special Atlas Week challenge in which the Distinguished Guest Lecturer, Dr. Mukesh Kapila, was judging.

The challenge asked for a pitch for a feasible plan that would provide space for innovation and restoration of dignity in refugee camps.  My team focused on incorporating art and creativity through a community art program.  Teenagers at the camp would be trained in various forms of sustainable and upcycled art, as well as trained on basic teaching and facilitation skills. They would then be the community art organizers, engaging younger children in the camp in workshops and art projects that would be public art displays such as murals or other sculptures, to both help beautify the camp as well as provide a creative outlet for all involved. Additionally, it would allow the participating teenagers to develop leadership skills.  It would also allow for opportunities to take the art projects into the greater community outside the camp, and begin engaging with youth in the community as well, to encourage integration among members of the camp as well as the community it is set in.

Creating the pitch was challenging as it forced us to think about several different aspects of innovating and then implementing a plan. After coming up with the idea of a sustainable art program, we then had to consider who in the camp would run the program, how it could be funded and sustained, how it would be integrated into the community, and what the goals and desired outcomes would be for the program.  And, with the amount of time allowed during the hour, we were only scratching the surface. To actually create such a program in real life would be even more complex and in-depth. Going through the process gave me a deeper appreciation for entrepreneurs and the amount of both creativity and detailed planning skills that are necessary to start something new.

Participating in the challenge was also extremely thought-provoking. It necessitated stepping outside of our personal experiences and trying to gain an understanding of what life may be like in a refugee camp, as well as what types of programs or infrastructures could be implemented in order to improve the situation. Hearing Dr. Kapila’s comments about the challenge and about his experiences with refugee camps have inspired me to learn more.  I ultimately was very impressed with the winning group, and their idea about incorporating a university in the refugee camp using partnerships from the local community as well as the skills and expertise of people living within the camp itself was both extremely innovative but also made complete sense! I left the challenge with a renewed perspective on the “innovative mindset” and how to approach problems both creatively and practically.

Winning Reflection - Rachel Rimmerman

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