Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Nelle Sacknoff: Scavenger Hunt for Innovation in Latin America

April 6, 2011

Sitting one day in the Digital Learning Commons in November talking about innovation and technology, my January term plans came up. My supervisor Bob Cole asked me, “What do youreally want to do?” Growing up in a large family of eight and working in collaborative situations since leaving the nest, this type of question is not always easy for me to answer.

I had a hard time really believing what I wanted to do: commit to travel alone through Latin America for academic research and fieldwork, complete with deliverables and objectives. This trip simply wouldn't be another “volunteer,” “work,” “travel for fun,” or “make new friends in foreign places” experience. I also hoped to fine-tune my Spanish language skills, one of my biggest academic challenges – a fear always sneaking up when my passion for Latin American culture goes from an interest to professional career in this region. Like turning off the switch of all nerves and apprehension, I then charged forward to figure out how to do just that.

In January, I started my scavenger hunt across Latin America to study the use of innovation and technology towards international management and global education in this diverse region. I traveled to 3 countries (Chile, Argentina and Dominican Republic), visiting and/or speaking with 20 different organizations, and holding 40 management interviews (and practice my Spanish language skills along the way, gosh darn it!).

I kicked off the trip by visiting the WorldTeach team at headquarters, who I worked with over 2 years after college as a volunteer and on special projects abroad in Costa Rica and Chile. They are in the process of getting all of their teacher curriculum support materials online so I had some good Digital Media Commons conversations to share with them as well. They’re also introducing a new project management online system this month that will support headquarters and help connect field staff all over the world.

During my research trip, I represented the Monterey Institute and Middlebury College, wearing my heart on my sleeve in the Latin American culture that I love.  One highlight from this trip was with the Middlebury folks from the Rohatyn Center, who passed me onto various other opportunities, including a weekend “Innovation and Creativity Workshop” with the University of Catolica’s MBA program. I also had the opportunity to visit the Cisco Systems office in Buenos Aires, beautifully overlooking Uruguay, for an interview with the lead of higher education Partnerships and Sales of all of Latin America.

This trip served as a way to explore my own professional development and gain experiences that will help me better serve the patrons of the Digital Media Commons. One of my most compelling findings is that if technology or social media is not used in the right context or misunderstood by its users, this hampered innovation and held teams or organizations back.

Over the next few semesters, I'm hoping to host “Digital Innovation Clinics” on campus. Digital Innovation Clinics bring organizations on-campus, from the local community, or from abroad into the Digital Media Commons to brainstorm, create, and innovate around a common theme: how can digital and social media advance and promote their mission and goals?

To be continued…

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