Clément Moliner-Roy

Clément is a guest contributor for Ashoka U's Student Changemaker Stories campaign. He is a recent graduate from College of the Atlantic and is currently a Social Impact Advisor for Sherbrooke University in Canada.

100 Interviews Later: How Do You Equip a Changemaker?

This blog is part of Ashoka U’s Student Changemaker Stories: a campaign bringing together diverse student changemaker perspectives to shift the narrative around what it means to be a changemaker and who can be one – on campus and beyond. Each story concludes with a note of gratitude and call-to-action from the author.

Many people across higher education are familiar with this traditional milestone in a student’s journey: the capstone.

At College of the Atlantic (COA), we referred to the capstone as our “Senior Project.” In April 2018 I was contemplating what I should do for mine.

I had endless ideas… I wanted to develop “Eat 4-2” – a restaurant in which a customer’s purchase of a meal pays forward a meal for someone else in need. I wanted to create an outdoor leadership school in Quebec. I wanted to launch “Leadercirque” – a circus that empowers learners with leadership skills.

In order to pick, I started asking myself over and over: “Which of these projects might contribute the most to the world?”

Very quickly, I noticed this reflection sparked a new passion for educational innovation within me. I sensed that through education I could empower 10, 100, or even 1000 people to explore their own critical questions around changemaking. I trusted this would have more collective impact than any projects I could run by myself.

A Question Echoing Across the Globe

Thanks to a Presidential Scholarship I received from COA, I went on a journey around the world to explore these questions:

“How do you spark one’s will to contribute to the world?”
“How do you equip someone with the tools, skills, and resources needed to contribute to a better world?”

A year later, I had visited twelve different educational institutions ranging from Stanford’s Design School to the University of Innovation in Tokyo. I conducted over 100 interviews with different changemakers including community leaders, social innovators, educators, and students.

Together we identified what had sparked their will to contribute to a better world. We also delved into how they could have been better supported to develop changemaking projects. 

100 Interviews Later

Everything I learned through these 100+ interviews was incredibly rich. It would have felt like a waste to simply write a paper or a research synthesis. I wanted to craft a unique representation of this project.

The first cohort of Fellows in Changemaker Residency.

I listened to my inner call to bring together, synthesize, and appreciate the pieces of educational innovation I had discovered across the interviews. From this, a platform came to life:

What followed the interview series was a connected stream of creation, approach, and purpose-driven work around this core question: “How can I equip future changemakers?”

Post-Graduation: Translating Insights into Experiences

The first project birthed from the interview insights post-graduation was Changemaker Residency, the pilot project of a new experiential approach to higher education. The Changemaker Residency brought aspiring changemakers from around the world together in Quebec, Canada to equip them with the tools, skills, and mindset needed to develop social impact projects. (See Changemaker Residency’s inaugural learning outcomes report here).

Changemaker Residency in Action. Photography credit: Juneshoo Shin

The program was heavily inspired by a philosophy I had discovered in Japan called “Ikigai” which best translates to “Reason for being.” This essentially invites people to combine what they love doing (their interest), what they are good at (their strengths), and the causes they care the most about into meaningful, impact-driven projects. I utilized my coursework with COA’s Diana Davis Spencer Hatchery sustainable enterprise accelerator to bring this project to life.

Changemaker Residency then built upon Daniela-Papi Thornton’s work on systems-led leadership as we invited participants to map out the systems in which they hoped to create change. This supported the insights reinforced by the 100+ interviews around three critical changemaker skills to cultivate: (1) the importance of understanding/defining the root causes of a problem; (2) working collaboratively with other changemakers; (3) the importance of multi-disciplinary approaches that honor the deep complexity of changemaking work.

Our residency worked to bring these skills to the forefront of the student experience.

Sustaining Changemaking Work Professionally

Sherbrooke University students at the end of an intensive bootcamp for impact-driven projects.

As the first edition of Changemaker Residency concluded, I was hired by the social entrepreneurship hub at Sherbrooke University, the Accélérateur Entrepreneurial Desjardins (AED). My current work is now sustaining my ability to continue asking and growing alongside the question: “How can I equip future changemakers?”

It is wonderful to now apply everything I’ve learned through my research and journey as a student changemaker. We’re currently developing an array of programs to enable students to work on immersive projects in their local community. We’ve also launched a social entrepreneurship class open to students from all disciplines and all levels who want to work on changemaking projects with coaching and community support.

I see no end to how this support network of experiences, curriculum, and other community-based projects can grow. They are each critical to grow the capacity of future student changemakers.

As I think back on those 100 interviews, or as I look forward to another day working at my campus to serve our students, a constant theme runs throughout: It is our duty and privilege to never stop questioning how we can better equip student changemakers everywhere.

Closing Words from Clément

Interested in reading more student changemaker stories? Jump back to our full list of stories and contributors!