Diego Carrión Alvarez

Diego is a guest contributor for Ashoka U's Student Changemaker Stories campaign. He is a current undergraduate student at Universidad de Monterrey and supports a variety of their changemaking initiatives.

Studying Medicine, Practicing Changemaking

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.

I remember the day so clearly: I was a young student partaking in one of the most important social innovation conferences in higher education – the Hult Prize. I was presenting a project primarily designed by students to an audience of academics, deans, and practitioners.

I was terrified and could feel my nerves intensely at the start of the presentation. By the end of the presentation, that feeling had turned into excitement as the audience clapped and cheered. It was one of the most incredible moments of my life.

Discovering Outside of my Discipline

My changemaker journey started when I began my undergraduate studies at Universidad de Monterrey (UDEM). I decided to join the Enactus team, where this community for social innovation felt completely outside my scene as a medical student.

Participating in one of the global Enactus events.

This experience with Enactus changed my mindset around how social innovation connects us to each other and what we care about. In the following years, I had the opportunity to serve as president of UDEM’s Enactus team and as Campus Director for the Hult Prize. These experiences taught me that changemaking and social entrepreneurship could be made open to anyone interested in them.

Being a part of Enactus and the Hult Prize expanded my access to communities of other changemakers and I became a deeper part of UDEM’s social innovation community. With UDEM as a Changemaker Campus, the student experience is special because we have a whole ecosystem devoted to embed changemaking within each student. It has been a game-changing campus culture.

The Need for Inter-Institutional Collaboration

As a new changemaker, my first ideas failed loudly and it took multiple tries to work on an idea that succeeded. This first “successful” changemaker idea came when I applied for a grant with Ashoka U’s Changemaker Campus network. A team of students and I submitted a proposal for inter-institutional collaboration of students from our three Changemaker Campuses in Mexico.

While we worked on the proposal at UDEM, I only knew one person when the planning began – Mitzi, a business classmate I had worked with before (Mitzi’s blog is also featured here!). Together, and after several days of working alongside UDEM students and students from other Changemaker Campuses, we generated a proposal that was accepted by Ashoka U.

In the following year, our team created a “Student Changemaker Weekend” – an event that would unite students from across all three Changemaker Campuses in Mexico to work on social innovation projects. Through this event, we met Yanniz, a former UDEM student who then came back to work for UDEM. She became our personal mentor, and later, our close friend.

Creating a Successful Changemaker Event at Your School

What made our “Student Changemaker Weekend” a success? Our Changemaker Weekend was the first-ever event to convene students and teachers from all Changemaker Campuses in Mexico, providing a unique opportunity for networking and idea-sharing.

The next year, our team applied to present our project at the 2019 Ashoka U Exchange and we were accepted to expose our project to some of the top changemakers across Latin America. We received important feedback, networked, and left with newfound energy to continue our changemaking.

Until now, I’ve been working on different projects, from my social entrepreneurship ideas to collaborating in initiatives like the Exchange Student Council. During this semester, I’ve been able to attend the 17th World Peace Summit as part of the Ashoka Mexico delegation alongside Yanniz and Mitzi.

Attending the 17th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates with an incredible community.

This event solidified my connection to a core idea: To strengthen our shared experience of changemaking, we must consistently come together with close friends, gather enrichment from others’ stories, and be inspired by excellent models of global social innovations. This reminds me that I’m not alone in my changemaking, and that our goal should always be to move forward together.

Teamwork as the Guide

As I reflect, it feels like finding social entrepreneurship and changemaking was almost an accident. As a student of medicine, I didn’t expect to intersect my learnings with these fields.

Across my experiences, I’ve learned that teamwork is at the center of everything. Because I’m studying at a Changemaker Campus, they are actively interested in developing their alumnae into social innovators. I have naturally encountered peers who have become allies and collaborators in developing social innovation ideas. I’m encouraged that there is always the possibility to find peers who share values and goals in changemaking.

Mentorship has also been key for my experience, such as having Yanniz to provide our team with the experiences and tools to develop our changemaker skills. I have come to understand that changemaking is something we cannot do on our own and we must seek active collaboration with others.

As we expand our definition of teamwork, we must also be willing to step down from the podium – we must let the community and participants of the project shine so they can also develop their leadership with the project.

Step by step, we will all see that our journeys are connected and supported by each other.

Closing Words from Diego

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