Lighting up lives - International Institute for Social Entrepreneurship (IISE)


This summer i am taking sessions on Human Rights at the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs (IISE) in Thiruvanthapuram, Kerala (South India), an Institute that operates under the umbrella of Braille without Borders (BWB).The IISE focuses on leadership training in order to create social change. The participants, all over 22 years of age, are inspiring visionaries who mainly come from developing nations. All of them have overcome significant life challenges ranging from vision impairment, disability, poverty, war, discrimination and exploitation. They have a passion to make the world a better place and the strength to be forces of good rather than victims of circumstance.

Throughout IISE's 11-month programme, participants develop all the necessary skills to succeed as social innovators/entrepreneurs. Workshops and hands-on practice in the areas of management, public speaking, communication, leadership, fund raising, budgeting, bookkeeping, project proposal writing, marketing, public relations, computing with open software technology, and others, give IISE's participants all the necessary tools to start their own social projects. All selected participants receive a full scholarship, including travel costs, accommodation and a high-end course by international experts.To ensure high quality training, IISE accommodates a maximum of 32 participants per academic year.

Programme

The programme is especially designed for future social entrepreneurs. It cannot be compared with post graduate study and previous formal education is not necessarily required. Participants who apply for this program have to be committed to a personal dream project for social change, and have the personality and creative ideas to make this happen.

The program is created in a way that participants:
- Who are 22 years of age or older from various countries, cultures, religions, socioeconomic and educational backgrounds can work, live and learn together.
- Learn methods, techniques and theories that are relevant to their own project implementations
- Learn about social entrepreneurship through various case studies, practical projects and internships
- Will have gained the necessary basic skills to be able to start their own projects once they leave the IISE.

A Journey in Five Acts

The 11 month course is mainly based on the experiences of the founders of Braille Without Borders and supported by professors of universities throughout Kerala, voluntary McKinsey consultants and other experts in the fields of social entrepreneurship, development work, business and arts.

The curriculum is divided into 3 major parts:
A) Prologue (3 weeks)
B) A journey in five acts (10 months and one week)
C) Alumni program (indefinite)

A) Prologue:
The prologue is substantial, not only as an introduction to the program but also as a phase in which participants and catalysts (facilitators) have a chance to get to know each other.
The focus of these first three weeks is on prevention of conflicts which could arise due to differences in cultural and religious backgrounds.

The general topics are:
- Cultural diversity with the objective of tolerating and appreciating cultural differences
- Introduction to receiving and giving feedback and listening and asserting with the objectives to create an IISE communicational code of conduct
- Assessments of useful skills such as Math, Finance, English (colloquial and written), and computer with the objective to bring everyone to an equal level.
- Introducing one's own dream project in a first dream speech, with the objective to start with the preparation for this particular social project

B) A Journey in Five Acts
The journey in five acts is designed to provide the participants with all the relevant skills and knowledge needed to start their dream social project. The entire training is conceptualised around practical, hands-on activities. The chosen case studies and the actual projects become more and more real from act to act.

ACT ONE
An imaginative case study: in 2010 it was the MALAIKA ISLANDS.

Participants are confronted with the problems and circumstances of an imaginative country. They are divided into teams that work on a 10 week case study. The teams are taught to solve problems and develop theoretical projects. The given problems are all based on real-life examples. While the participants work on their case study, they will be provided with the following methods:

- Defining the problem
- Conducting a needs study
- Analysing data
- Generating options for possible solutions
- Conceptualisation
- Writing project descriptions
- Financing a project
- Finding the right donors
- Writing project proposals

All the projects are evaluated by an external jury, consisting of governmental leaders, social entrepreneurs and activists, CEOs of local companies and industries as well as and business entrepreneurs.

While the participants work in teams on their case study, they are required to implement their gained knowledge into their own social dream project. The progress of the development of their social projects is regularly be monitored by the catalysts.

ACT TWO
‘Leadership and Change’ (overcoming cultural taboos)

While Act One is rather hands-on and very technical, Act Two focuses more on soft skills such as communication, leadership skills and awareness (social marketing).

The following skills are taught:
- Campaigning and creating awareness                       
- Conflict management
- Mediation/coaching
- Negotiation/debate
- Team management
- Time management
- Awareness and social change
- Leadership skills
- Theatre, drama, public speaking

The practical implementation exists of a social marketing plan and a self produced radio play/feature in order to raise awareness about unnecessary cultural taboos.

ACT THREE
‘Getting Real’

In Act Three participants have a chance to implement all acquired methods and soft skills into the formation and management of real projects in the district of Thiruvananthapuram.
These projects are run under the umbrella of Braille Without Borders but are co-designed and conceptualised by the different IISE generations.

The following projects already underway:
1. A preparatory school for the blind
2. A research and development centre where low-cost, high quality and high value aid products and software are being developed
3. A theme park in the dark; an awareness centre.
4. A community development program, to assist the neighbouring community

The objectives of this act are the following:
- The implementation of all learned techniques into a real project
- Seeing a real project grow and develop
- Acquiring experiences in the building phase of social projects.

The findings, concepts and action plans are evaluated by an external jury. The jury exists of business managers and the presentations are held in an off-campus location.

ACT FOUR
‘Exploring the Real World’

This act is reserved for an internship in which participants put their acquired methods and leadership skills into practice in an NGO or corporate setting. The hosting party is asked to define a project that the intern can implement within two months. The projects vary from awareness campaigns, development of programs and curricula, conducting needs studies to a fundraiser.

Objectives of this act:
- Finding a role in unfamiliar surroundings
- Understanding one's own strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement
- Being fully responsible for execution of a given project

Participants are sent to their host organisations either alone or in pairs. Internships can be done all over India.

ACT FIVE
‘Back to the Dream’

Throughout the 11 month program, participants have implemented all the acquired skills into the design of their own projects.  Now it is time to finalise their portfolios and if possible, register their organisations. In addition supporters who are willing to commit to assist financially or through legal and organizational advice are found.

Objectives:
- Legalising and registering their social project
- Learning how to find and select a good team

During graduation, all portfolios are assessed by an external international jury. Participants hold a 15 minute public speech in which they explain their plan. Two grants are given to the most promising projects.

C) Alumni program
Though the graduates of the IISE have undergone intensive training in various skill sets which are essential to realise their social projects, it is important to offer guidance during the crucial period of the start-up phase.

The alumni program provides a platform to share each other's experiences, discuss problems and present possible solutions. Additionally, the IISE offers assistance especially for active graduates, by linking them to voluntary professional mentors.

This program contains of three different levels, which come with certain benefits and responsibilities:
1. Alumni program (a general forum for keeping in touch)
2. Fellowship program (A forum for graduates who are in the starting phase of their projects)
3. IISE ambassador network (a network for those who have achieved some success and can be seen as ambassadors for the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs.)

The success of the IISE program can only be measured by those who go out into the world, realise their visions and create positive social change.

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