As the pandemic continues to rage across the country, it has gotten harder to network and collaborate with fellow changemakers and share new solutions to social issues. Now the Sullivan Foundation is making it easy again, thanks to a new online program called Ignite Masterclass.
With its popular Ignite Retreats, usually held twice a year in North Carolina, currently on hold, the Sullivan Foundation is bringing social-change leaders, college students and faculty/staff together through the weekly Ignite Masterclass sessions—and all classes are free. Even better, many participants say it’s the best online event they have ever attended.
Spud Marshall, the Sullivan Foundation’s director of student engagement, leads the sessions. Each one features a mini-lecture from a social innovator about a specific initiative, followed by a chance to network with peers, Sullivan coaches and other leaders in the field.
Additionally, classes taught by professors from across the Sullivan network – as well as some non-Sullivan schools – attend and participate in the sessions.
“The Ignite Masterclass introduces you to leaders around the world engaged in social change and helps open doors so you can take the next step on your changemaking journey,” Marshall said. “With more than 50 coaches and speakers joining the sessions every week throughout the fall, bring your curiosity, because you never know who you might meet each week!”
The pandemic brought a screeching halt to live events like the Ignite Retreats, but virtual programming has filled the gap. In fact, holding Ignite Masterclasses online once a week allows Marshall to recruit dozens of thought leaders to share their ideas and time with participants. “One of the biggest values of the Ignite Retreat is the ability for people to connect with others who can help you take the next step on your changemaking journey,” Marshall said. “With the Ignite Masterclass series, we are creating the same networking experience and offering it weekly throughout the fall. We have more than 50 coaches and speakers for participants to connect with during the sessions.”
Marshall said he conducted a survey of participants to get their feedback on the sessions. “The majority of participants rank the Ignite Masterclass as the best virtual event they’ve ever attended,” he said.
“We’ve designed the sessions so that everyone walks away with content and connection,” he added. “Our featured speakers share stories about their work and helpful tips and frameworks they use to advance social change in their field. And then we end the sessions with a networking lounge for participants to connect with coaches who can help you figure out how to apply that content to your personal life, problems in your home community, and through projects you want to get involved in.”
Ignite Masterclasses offer benefits to college students and faculty/staff members who are passionate about creating positive social change. All classes are aimed at both audiences, who can collaborate to launch their own initiatives both in and beyond the classroom.
For students, the benefits include:
- Building relationships with peers and fellow students throughout the country
- Access to national leaders in the social innovation and changemaking space
- An inspiring alternative to Zoom webinars—these sessions are fully interactive and motivate participants to start taking action now.
For college faculty and staff members, the benefits include:
- Access to new topics and national speakers each week for nine weeks
- Interacting with up to 70 Sullivan partner schools and their students in real time from classrooms throughout the country
- Creating assignments around topical workshops and sessions each week
- Workshops are relevant to students as well as faculty
- All faculty and students are welcome to participate at no charge
Recent Ignite Masterclass sessions have covered topics such as sustainable design and how to apply the principles of sustainability to product design and development; storytelling for racial and social justice and the media’s role in perpetuating social injustice; and pushing through adversity and navigating the discomfort of change and uncertainty.
The next Ignite Masterclass will be held in two sessions, from 12:30-1:45 p.m. and 2:00-3:15 p.m. (ET), on Tuesday, Sept. 29. It features Tessa Zimmerman, founder and executive director of Asset Education, and focuses on maintaining health and well-being in a chaotic and conflict-ridden era. The session will explore a variety of stress-reducing, resilience-boosting tools and strategies that will help you be well and stay well.
Here’s a preview of sessions scheduled for October 2020:
- 11 a.m-12:15 p.m. and 3:00-4:15 p.m. (ET), Tuesday, Oct. 6: Developing Empathy as a Tool for Social Justice, with Reagan Pugh of Assemble. The session will guide participants through a dialogue on default mindsets, examine how fear prevents us from growth and provide strategies for developing empathy to advance social causes you care about.
- 9:30-10:45 a.m. and 10:50 a.m.-12:05 p.m. (ET), Thursday, Oct. 15: Design Thinking for Personal Growth and Social Innovation, with Kaveh Sadeghian of the Center for Social Impact Strategy. Sadeghian will introduce participants to the core principles of design thinking, creativity and social innovation and explore how to create meaningful work that matches your personal values.
- 2:30-3:45 p.m. (ET), Monday, Oct. 19: Nature-Inspired Solutions for a Healthier, More Sustainable World, with Jared Yarnall-Schane of the Biomimicry Institute. This session will introduce participants to biomimicry, a practice that learns from and mimics the strategies found in nature to solve human design challenges. It will also highlight case studies on businesses that learn from and support the natural world.
- 1:00-2:15 p.m. and 2:30-3:45 p.m. (ET), Wednesday, Oct. 28: Reimagining Education With Rappers and Corporate America, with Jarren Small of Reading With a Rapper. Small will discuss creative ways to pursue change within the education system through unlikely partnerships, such as bringing rap artists into the classroom to teach language and arts skills.