Making Sense of Motivation

22 Apr

You may have noticed that there are two emerging themes of The Eduventurist Project: Learning for the 21st Century and Social Innovation/Entrepreneurship. At first I had a hard time verbalizing how exactly the two concepts were connected. Of all of the Eduventurists I’ve interviewed, one particular common trait seems to continually be that they are striving to make a difference in the world, one way or another.  Yesterday I attended the first annual Penny Conference hosted by Skillshare, where I heard education innovator Tony Wagner speak. His talk touched on the connection between these two topics, and a lot of it has to do with motivation.

Our education system is based on extrinsic motivation, which is defined as “motivation that comes from outside an individual,” such as money or other rewards. In the conventional school system, students go through classwork in order to receive a good grade, to get their diploma, to go to college, and to then get a job in our consumer market-based economy (which is an unsustainable economic system in itself). The love of learning purely for the sake of learning tends to leave us early in this system, and we also lose a sense of relevance. Besides becoming a worker and consumer in our world’s economy, for what other reason are we learning? Many people get to college after having worked hard in high school to achieve acceptance at their dream school, only to end up asking themselves, “why am I doing this? Is this what I want?” It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race. 

Contrary to the conventional school system, innovators and world changers are motivated by intrinsic motivation. They find joy and a sense of purpose in leaving a positive impact on the world. Several friends ask me how I continue to have a drive to learn on my own without school. I answer that I genuinely love learning about these issues, people, and projects. By learning, I am better able to help contribute to new solutions and ideas. Even if I am not receiving extrinisic rewards (like compensation or a grade), I would still be motivated to do these things. Of course, we all have bills to pay and making a living wage from working and learning based on intrinsic motivation can be the challenge, but there are ways to do it.

My own personal belief is that we are all aspiring changemakers. Whether we know it or not, I think that everyone wants to live a life in which they have done something that has a positive impact on something besides one’s self. The emerging neuroscience of compassion and empathy shows us that we are hardwired to do good, and that people do not find sustainable happiness through competition, greed, or envy. We feel better when people around us are healthy, happy, and productive. If we were to have an educational system that encouraged collaboration, made learning relevant, let students take ownership in their education, and was productive in terms of making our environment and people around us better, students would be more motivated, interested, and happier in the process of learning. 

This is why The Eduventurist Project is not driven to simply tell the stories of people learning in different ways. It’s more specifically looking at how people who are intrinsically motivated by doing good are finding ways to take ownership of their education, careers, and life paths to better align them with a deeper sense of purpose. This fuels Eduventure 2012, and further explains why I am exploring these models of educating changemakers. 

One particular model of action learning for changemakers that I’d like to share is being used by Make Sense. Several weeks ago, my friend and Make Sense gang member Kate Ettinger of Mural Institute offered to organize a “Hold Up” for the Eduventurist Project. Make Sense was started by a French business school student Christian Vanizette, and is an international organization with “hot spots” around the world in which trained members of the Make Sense gang (a.k.a “gangsters”) organize Hold ups and get together to creatively help social entrepreneurs in the challenges they face. Learn more from the video below: 

My hold-up was organized in the San Francisco hot spot, and the challenge was to help me think further about what I could end up creating out of what I learn from Eduventure 2012. Kate made a video from the hold up and the resulting ideas which included:

  • Mimic My Comic: A web platform in which people can create comics out of their alternative education paths
  • The Eduventure Challenge: Get teams of students from various educational backgrounds together to compete in a competition to come up with solutions to various global challenges.
  • Playground: Traditional schools are paired with an alternative learning program through an evaluative process, and together they incubate ideas for the future of education, which are showcased through 5-minute pitches and can be awarded with a “kid’s choice” or “guardian’s choice” award. 

Definitely some cool ideas to get me thinking big about what can come out of this journey!

After the Eduventurist hold-up, I was trained to be a gangster (oh yeahhhh) and helped to co-animate a “friend up” for a high school girl, Reika. Reika wanted to find  a way to engage her classmates in becoming more worldly and aware of multicultural issues. I brought my two high school-aged cousins and brother along, all of whom got pretty into the process and contributed great ideas! That video can be viewed here
While in New York, I’ve met up with two gangsters from the NYC hotspot, Marion and Juliette. They are attending business school in France but are on exchange at Pace University for the semester. We are hoping to organize a hold-up before I leave, if you are in the New York area and would like to join, let me know!

If you’d like to learn more about the Hold Up process, you can watch the video which features Christian, the Make Sense co-founder: 

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