The winning team, Hank Leber, Alex Aloise, Sriram Venkitachalam, Jessica Barrera, Alex Jeon, and Enrico Gatti. (Photo stolen from the blog of Sriram Venkitachalam)

The winning team, Hank Leber, Alex Aloise, Sriram Venkitachalam, Jessica Barrera, Alex Jeon, and Enrico Gatti. (Photo stolen from the blog of Sriram Venkitachalam)

This week, my Cultural Exploration class made their final presentations to a non-profit group called Read To Them.

The presentations were the final step in a process that began several weeks ago. Each student spent time reading stories to children, and then wrote about the experience. They engaged in conversations with parents and children, teachers and administrators, librarians and grant-providers. They explored media partnerships, funding requirements, direct marketing response rates and other aspects of the challenge.

In the end, seven teams of graduate students presented their recommendations to the leadership of the organization. The work was well researched, thoughtful and very creative. The winning team (pictured above) identified an insightful way to overcome educator resistance to “just another literacy program” and repositioned the program as a community-building event. The “Trojan Horse” strategy was intended to accelerate the spread of the program and the resulting impact on students who participate.

Other teams focused on building a strong business foundation or tackled funding issues head-on by identifying the value of words. The Martin Agency’s Vice Chairman, Bruce Kelley, a Read To Them board member who initiated the project and graciously gave his time and attention to our students, summed up the power of the strategies by commenting, “This work completely blows me away.” More importantly, the work will be implemented by the organization and thousands of children will get a better chance in life thanks to these thoughtful efforts – a great example of the power of creativity to fuel change.

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