The term apprenticing with a problem comes from Jessamyn Shams-Lau, Executive Director of the Peery Foundation, who teaches a course with Todd Manwaring at Brigham Young University. They encourage their students to apprentice with a problem as they pursue their social change goals. Jessamyn was a thought partner in the genesis of this report as it was my interview with her that shifted me away from my original research question, “Which practices of foundations and social investors help or hinder the sharing of lessons learned across the social sector?” I realised from my conversation with Jessamyn, and so many more to follow, that the barriers to collective impact not only rest with funders but with all aspects of the impact ecosystem. As I work in a university and have observed both the shifts in student interests and the impact of entrepreneurship-focused programming, it seemed only fitting that I shift my research to include a look at how we educate for impact. The phrase apprenticing with a problem embodies the approach I believe we need to take, as educators, entrepreneurs, funders, and all forms of change agents, if we are going to achieve the promise of our collective good intentions. Thank you Jessamyn for that reminder and for the use of this great term!
I believe I first heard the word heropreneurship from Pamela Hartigan, Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. She has graciously let me use the term for this report, and in addition to being my boss at work, has been a guide as I have explored these topics. I’m grateful for her encouragement as I pursued the Clore Social Leadership Programme and this research, and for her flexibility and partnership, providing the freedom to try out some of these ideas in practice. Thanks as well to the whole Skoll Centre team (Alastair Colin-Jones, Pamela Hartigan, Pippa Hichens, Lyn Hill, Georgia Lewis, Breanne Svehla, and Andrea Warriner) as well as the wider Oxford Saïd Business School leadership including Dean Peter Tufano and Dana Brown for testing out the apprenticing with a problem approach and for a collective commitment to supporting students to live out the school’s motto of “tackling world-scale problems.”
Thanks as well to Baljeet Sandhu, founder of The Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit, for her work in promoting the value of the lived experience. Baljeet’s report on this topic is forthcoming, but her efforts to promote and support those with the lived experience of the problems we all seek to tackle has certainly helped shape my thinking and educational approach. Hopefully there will be more acknowledgement of both the value of the lived experience and the value of apprenticing with a problem, as well as the efforts that combine the two, and I hope to continue to learn from and promote Baljeet’s work on the topic.