At the Eastern-Europe FLEX-Ability Workshop in Kvareli, Georgia, 62 alumni of the Future Leaders of Exchange program known as FLEX gathered at the Ministry of Justice Training Center.
At the Eastern-Europe FLEX-Ability Workshop in Kvareli, Georgia, 62 alumni of the Future Leaders of Exchange program known as FLEX gathered at the Ministry of Justice Training Center. Alumni representing the past nine years of the FLEX program travelled to the workshop from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine with a shared goal: take a community need and transform it into a social enterprise using entrepreneurial skills, technology, and STEAM techniques. (STEAM is science, technology, engineering, and math, plus arts.)
In preparation for the workshop, alumni took part in online training sessions to learn the steps in creating a community assessment plan and to research successful organizations with a legacy of a positive social impact in their communities. The pre-workshop sessions encouraged alumni to identify successful, local ventures to use as best practice examples during the workshop as well as to connect with them as potential partners.
At the in-person gathering in Georgia, alumni brought ideas for community development projects as trainers led sessions on entrepreneurship, technology, and STEAM to direct alumni in developing their project ideas. Alumni learned ways to use science, technology, and engineering to make a simple project for his or her home community into a larger, more effective project.
Forming teams to develop their projects, with the hope that similar projects can be launched throughout the region, teams were encouraged to use technology after the workshop to continue to collaborate from their respective homes in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
- Abdullah Syed '07 (YES Program, Pakistan) from Level Up Village, an organization that aims to develop the global classroom through STEAM education, offered examples of how to use STEAM techniques in both the modern classroom and social enterprises
- Daan Harmsen, CEO at Dasta Records Management in Georgia, led sessions on business development, learning how to develop a business model, hold effective market research, and develop a marketing and sales approach; skills that they can utilize as they move forward with their community projects
- Founder of Google Developers Group Tbilisi and leader of Women Techmakers Tbilisi Nino Nanitashvili '10 (GHSEP, Georgia) spoke about various social projects for which she is best known. She highlighted her work on Peace Park, a game that teaches young people conflict mediation and resolution skills
- Yagub Rakhimov '06 (Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan) gave tips on financing projects
To provide alumni an idea of how to continue their technology and STEAM education, the group also visited the Tbilisi Technology Park, which holds advanced technology tools, small incubators, educational centers, and laboratories, all aimed to create a partnership between innovation and technology.
The workshop culminated with final project pitches, where participants presented their websites and ideas to a jury of staff and trainers.
Among those presented were:
- Bright Tech Labs, an online training school with interactive multimedia lessons on STEAM subjects
- Find Your Doctor, a healthcare service and business directory
- Personalized Apps for Schools, a learning management system
- Wisdom of Women, a for-profit initiative that focuses on creating STEM-related opportunities for women
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Alumni engaged in social media throughout the workshop using the hashtag #EEFAW16. A daily video of highlights, created by FLEX alumna Alyona Doroshenko '14 (Kyiv, Ukraine), received over 10,000 views; the FLEX Alumni social media team used Facebook live to connect alumni, worldwide.
The FLEX-Ability Workshop is sponsored by the US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and US Embassies in Armenia and Azerbaijan.
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