This fall UWC Mahindra College worked with the Disruptive Innovation Festival (DIF) to facilitate a conversation across the UWC movement with a still-wider audience of the 8,000 + DIF participants. This unprecedented conversation–involving a Q&A Session with the UWC Heads of Colleges followed by a Student Panel featuring students from thirteen out of fourteen UWCs worlwide–centred around the concept of disruptive innovation. Questions and topics included: Is the UWC movement relevant today? Are we achieving our mission? What does it mean to concentrate such resources into such a small pool of individuals? What should our end goal be as a mission? Responses took the form of students organizing further conversations, Open Space sessions across UWCs and the collaborative creation of a student-governed UWC Assembly. The UWC Assembly is an online platform which would help facilitate discussions on topics of interest to anyone related to UWC, which includes students, teachers, alumni and HOC. The platform aims to connect the UWC movement and allow cross communication, to ensure a fresh perspective on issues and allow collective action on relevant topics.
-Ben Reid-Howells & Oscar Avila Akerberg (UWCMC-DIF Facilitators)
UWC has an ego. This isn’t a surprising fact: a movement which can pluck ten of its favourite applicants out of swarming hundreds per country is likely to be quite convinced of its general superiority. It is, indeed, a necessary character trait for a change-the-world organisation, for there is little room for self-doubt in asserting one’s right to define The Greater Good.
An ego, however, is an unwieldy thing in a process of self-development. It causes even critics to grow complacent – “Ah, but at least we have better extra curricular activities than everywhere else.”And so the movement stagnates.
The Disruptive Innovative Festival was a conscious setting aside of this ego. There was, at least, a collective agreement that there is something about UWC to disrupt, a necessity for consideration and change, and I see this in itself as positive. As a student panelist, I was required to fully formulate my critique of the institution, pull into cohesion all my fragmented discomforts and identify where change is necessary. To hope that I or the other panelists did this perfectly, or that our suggestions will translate into concrete policy decisions, would be a little far-fetched. However, even the process of formulation was a valuable activity to encourage, and the exchange of our ideas created a necessary space of open, frank, movement-wide discussion.
The size, constancy and power of this space are worth questioning – and worth building on – but perhaps it is worthy of some small celebration that the process has begun. I hope that self-reflection, consciousness and active involvement extends far enough throughout the UWC community that this beginning is a meaningful one.
-Safieh Grace Kabir (Class of ’15)