Snapshot of Ashoka U Exchange 2018: Day 1

Have you ever travelled the United States in 2 days???  Well, I just did.

You must be thinking that I am crazy but it actually happened in April where I had a wonderful opportunity to travel to Boston from Australia (Melbourne).

Let’s begin the story of my journey…….

It was the morning of 4th April 2018 when I travelled to Sydney from Melbourne where I met other friends who were travelling with me to Boston, Massachusetts. So, to be more precise, we travelled from Sydney to Los Angeles (which was the first international flight to the USA), Los Angeles to Atlanta and finally Atlanta to Boston. So, after 36 hours of flight and transit time, we arrived in Boston.

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Brief about Ashoka U:

Five staff members and five students including myself out of 114 applicants from CQUniversity were selected to attend the most awaited and rewarding program ‘ Ashoka U Exchange 2018’ in Boston from the dates 4th April to 7th April 2018. Altogether there were 22 attendees from CQUniversity including Vice Chancellor Scott Bowman, Associate Vice Chancellor of Melbourne, staff and students. Another main highlight is that CQUniversity is the only university from Australia that is an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus.

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What is Ashoka U?

AshokaU is the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs and change makers. Ashoka U takes an institutional change approach to impact the education of millions of students. They collaborate with colleges and universities to break down barriers to institutional change and foster a campus-wide culture of social innovation.


What is Ashoka U Exchange 2018?

Ashoka U Exchange 2018 was organised by Ashoka U and was co-hosted by Babson College. The event lasted for 3 days starting from 5th April – 7th April 2018 in Sheraton Hotel, Boston. There were 40 institutions from all over the United States and Australia (CQUniversity only). It was the largest international conference where university professionals, policymakers, staff and students were gathered to share how their institutions where practicing social innovation in higher education and how they are working with the students to make them a change maker.


More Details on:

Day 1: 

The first day of the conference started with the Welcome speech by Beeta Ansari who is the COO & Director of Exchange & Commons, Ashoka U and Marla M Capozzi who is the Chair of Board of Trustees, Babson College. Following this, Founder of Ashoka U, Bill Drayton gave a brief introduction of Ashoka U, its values and highlighted how we humans are at the turning point of innovation between the old system and new findings.

After the welcome speech Aneel Chima (Associate Degree of the Division of Health & Human Performance, gave an introduction speech focusing on the purpose of human life and highlighted how change making and inner wellbeing were necessarily connected. He raised questions such as ‘What is our sense of purpose?’ and ‘Why invest in social innovation?’

This session was followed by a panel discussion where Vishnu Swaminathan was the moderator and the guest panels were Mary Watson, Pamela Gillies, Janet Moore and Wray Trwin.

Session 1: Panel Discussion:


Some of the extracts from the panel discussion:

Wray Trwin said that employers are looking for technical diversity and collaborative learning.

Mary Watson beautifully discussed how to balance financial difficulty and social innovation as a Changemaker.

Pamela Gillies highlighted how baby steps can help achieve the importance of collaboration.

Janet Moore highlighted how she enjoyed a connection with nature during summer camp but was not satisfied when she had to sit in lectures within four walls and wanted to change the traditional classroom structure.

The panel of discussion was followed by breakout sessions where we had options to choose from sessions such as big idea talks, site visits, workshops, best practice and networking sessions. Out of all these, I chose site visit to Haley House Bakery Cafe.

 Session 2: Site Visit to Haley House Bakery Cafe:


Haley House Bakery Cafe in Boston was a perfect example of social innovation practice. It was started by a man and woman who use to feed the homeless people and now it stands as a cafe which provides training and job opportunities to people transitioning out of incarceration. It is a non-profit cafe which collaborates and partners with organisations in the community to help the community and organises Slam Poetry and movie nights. This visit was the highlight of the conference where 25 other attendees got an opportunity to hear from the general manager and volunteer about how they are working to solve issues of food security, well-being and social justice. Participants of this site visit had an opportunity to taste delicious food by the amazing staff in Haley House.

Session 3: Speaking Race to Power for Multicultural Collaboration:


For the third session, I attended a workshop that discussed how a person could really understand people from different backgrounds. The speaker also highlighted that innovation happens in marginalised community. The workshop ended with a practice session where participants were grouped in 3 and were asked to work on the question” How can we CALL IN to make a systematic change?”. The participants in this workshop, at last, learned to deliver suggestions to leverage relationships by making aware of the context of the issue, being empathetic and collaborating with others which were the greatest take away from the workshop.

Session 4: Big Idea Talks:


The last session of Day 1 was Big Idea Talks where the speakers such as Jennifer Bailey, Michele Pistone, Meenu Singh and Fiona Wilson shared their journey to becoming a change maker and how they are solving social issues by using social innovation. Some highlights of this sessions by the speakers are as follows:

Michele Pistone defined ‘Social Entrepreneurism”  as giving people chance to change other people’s issues. She also highlighted how volunteers used online education system about Immigration Law to help the immigrants who could not afford lawyers and who did not have much information to present their innocents against the judges.

Jennifer Bailey spoke about Human Genome Mapping where she highlighted how micro-mapping system was being used to help visually impaired people to use GPS.

Wilson Fiona discussed how franchising opportunity given by the big Fast food industry such as McDonald’s has provided the opportunity for people to open up their own start up without having to start from scratch.

Meenu Singh shared her experience working with people who had autistic and how they worked together to develop a mode of language through letters.

After a long day of informative sessions, some of my friends and I went to eat some delicious Chinese dinner near our hotel and went back to sleep preparing ourselves for exciting Day 2.

Day 1 was beyond expectation. It was really interesting to meet people with same views and interest. Each one present there wanted to bring change or make a change in someones life by simply trying to collaborate and identify opportunities where they can solve a social problem. Read my next post on Day 2 and 3.


Urusha (

I am Urusha Kansakar and I am currently studying Master of Professional Accounting at Central Queensland University. I am new to this blogging world I hope the readers will like what I share.

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