New Stanford fellowship program will also share stories behind innovation

technology / Article

Justin Ferrell is the fellowships director and Emi Kolawole  is the editor-in-residence at the Stanford, which Knight Foundation supports to advance excellence in journalism. All photos by Emi Kolawole.

Catching an innovator in the middle of their process can be like catching a flame with your bare hands. Innovators burn through experiments quickly in the quest to learn about the people for whom they design. Unfortunately, that heat can also make it difficult to share what they learned along the way. Why stop to tell the story when you need all the time and energy you can muster to reach the solution?

Related Links

"WLRN strives to design a model of innovation to serve South Florida" by Mabel Domenech, WLRN, on Knight Blog (09/26/14)

"The next wave in digital journalism innovation" by Heather Chaplin, The New School, on Knight Blog (09/26/2014)

"New collaboration between Knight Foundation and Stanford to open opportunities in media and civic innovation" - Press release

And yet, what if the most valuable byproduct of an innovator’s effort is not the finished product, but what they learned getting there? These real-world stories of innovation in process can make for effective teaching tools.

At the, we focus on innovators before innovations. We teach students in our introductory classes to replace the search for a solution with the hunt for people’s needs. We also coach them in storytelling technique, including story structure and media production. We teach them these methods so they can share their insights with the wider world.

Even with our existing storytelling methods, we’re hungry for better ways to share tools, curriculum and learning. What if innovators in startups, nonprofits and large corporations had access to a process for sharing insights seamlessly as they worked? What would they need, and what more could we all learn?

These are some of the questions we seek to explore over the next three years with support from Knight Foundation.

We’re launching a media innovation effort that will give creative experts an opportunity to collaborate with the on telling the behind-the-scenes stories of innovation in process. These individuals will have an opportunity to leverage their expertise and explore ways to share these stories to advance learning.

We’ve already started this work. Last year, we launched the whiteboard, a platform where we capture stories of our fellows as they learn and apply design thinking. In addition to expanding our program offerings, we will scale the whiteboard, making it a repository of resources, insights and observations from, for and about innovators at the and beyond. This includes insights from our own process as we undertake this work. 

Our fellowship program will have a mini-cohort of fellows focused on civic innovation, similar to our existing K-12 education and health-care cohorts.

We think it’s important that what we learn here be useful to people wherever they are. So, let us know what you think, and, please, tell us your stories on Twitter at @stanforddschool or on Facebook.

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