Newark Cohort of Aspen Young Leaders Fellows Encouraged to Innovate, Dream Big During Fifth Session

Together for the first time since many started a new school year, the Newark cohort of Aspen Young Leaders Fellows unpacked the essence of innovation, revisited social venture projects, continued to deepen relationships, and refined observational skills in the fourth session of their Fellowship experience.

Guided by materials including Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First  Inaugural Address, Ronald Reagan’s Address on the Space Shuttle “Challenger,” and Golden Globe and Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures, Fellows were charged with paying particular attention to how they learn, consider new perspectives, and grow while exploring program design tenets of curiosity, clarity, and skill.

On Saturday, in depth exploration of the design thinking process helped Fellows map many of the skills they have begun building to the work they want to do in their communities. Reminding them of the importance of each step along the path to maximum impact (i.e. inquire/interpret, integrate, ideate/iterate, impact), facilitators asked Fellows to reflect on Fellowship experiences to date that have involved a design thinking process.

Fellows recalled session two, where they were asked to design their trip to the nation’s capital. They reflected on their opportunity to conduct empathy interviews in the historic Anacostia, Columbia Heights, and Tenleytown neighborhoods, where they were exposed to various residents’ perspectives on the cultures and characteristics that make DC After reflections, Fellows spent time in groups developing ideation skills. They practiced brainstorming techniques and developed rough prototypes of social venture projects using storyboards.

“It’s okay to be wrong, ask for help, and make mistakes… [the key is to] analyze your mistakes and channel your strengths to not repeat them.”

— AYLF Newark Fellow

Fellows took a break from the seminar room for a fun night out in Essex County! They visited the new Grammy Museum Experience at the Prudential Center  to learn about the heritage and history of American music and participate in an observational learning exercise where they were asked to view the Museum through different lenses. Fellows were inspired by the New Jersey Legends exhibit, featuring iconic artists from the Garden State. Later, Fellows decompressed over a bus ride to neighboring Montclair, NJ for a team building exercise at Amazing Escape Room. There, they had 60 minutes to work together on puzzles to discover a combination to escape the room – one of the weekend’s most challenging tasks!

After a day that pushed Fellows to pivot from skill-building to thinking about real world application of those skills in their communities, facilitators left the group with the inspiring words of American pioneer, Walt Disney,

“When you believe in a thing, believe it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.”

— Walt Disney

Carrying themes of embracing creativity and encouraging big ideas into Sunday, the group unpacked the US’ unprecedented race to the moon in the 1960’s and FDR’s framing of his First Inaugural Address following the Great Depression in 1933.

The last activity of the weekend helped Fellows identify strategies to manage their energy. After sharing thoughts and reflections from Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy’s article, “Managing Your Energy, Not Your Time,” Fellows supported each other by brainstorming and sharing effective strategies to relieve stress. Ideas included regular exercise and physical activity, healthy eating habits, and more time in one’s self-identified ‘happy place.’ As has become commonplace at the end of sessions, Fellows expressed appreciation for the space to focus on the self-care that they maturely recognize is necessary to maximize their effectiveness in serving others.

The Newark cohort will reconvene over the weekend of February 9 for their fifth session.