Project Overview Techstars Startup Weekend[1], a creative three-day educational event for developing and pitching new startup ideas, and MURAL[2], an intuitive digital whiteboard rooted in design thinking[3] that enables teams to solve problems, have been highly successful at fostering innovation in the technology sector.  We propose to repurpose these tools to train undergraduates interested in becoming helping professionals (e.g., doctors, nurses, teachers, counsellors) to devise solutions to problems that are endemic to caregiving.    Specifically, we propose creating a three-day, online workshop that will be held on consecutive Fridays and do the following:  On Day 1, students will hear virtual talks by five local practitioners about problems that they and their organizations currently face in addressing clients’ needs.  Students will vote on which of these problems they would like to tackle, be assembled into teams to work on them, and taught how to use MURAL to design solutions as members of a team.  On Day 2, teams will meet separately online and be assigned a practitioner/mentor who is knowledgeable about the team’s chosen problem.  With the guidance of these outside experts, teams will apply the principles of design thinking using MURAL to create a solution to their problem.  On Day 3, teams will gather online and be taught presentation skills and practice pitching their solutions.  Teams will then pitch solutions to a panel of investors, policymakers, and quality care managers who will decide which three teams have the most promising solutions and are to be awarded cash prizes to continue their projects with the guidance of their mentors.  All students who participate in the program – winners and losers – will receive a micro-credential showing that they have received training in collaborative problem solving.  The workshop will be held three times, once each year.   By participating in the Innovation Incubator and its “cycles of design thinking,” we hope that RIO can coordinate the proposed workshop with CU Boulder’s long-standing innovation initiative, New Venture Challenge.  We also hope that CTL and OIT personnel can transform this workshop’s format into a campus-wide resource for instructors wanting to create more meaningful and impactful learning experiences.  And we hope that the Innovation Incubator will not only help us partner with CU Anschutz and health care apprenticeship programs like Aims Community College to recruit practitioners and scale our project, but also to pursue grant opportunities like the Opportunity Now Colorado program that seeks to expand the state’s workforce in the areas of health care, early childhood, and K-12 education.   Project Purpose While institutes of higher education offer numerous courses that teach technical skills or raise awareness about social ills, they rarely equip aspiring helping professionals to be collaborative problem solvers.[4]  This despite the fact that problem solving and collaboration are the two job skills most sought by employers today.[5]  Nor are students who hope to work directly with disadvantaged groups given many opportunities to be mentored by practitioners who have experience in solving problems of care.  The proposed project seeks to fill these gaps.   Stakeholders + Needs This project will help students who aspire to be frontline care workers to grow professionally and integrate the insights of others from diverse disciplines and backgrounds, enable care organizations to develop a pipeline of potential recruits, and improve the quality of care offered to local vulnerable populations.    Intended Impact After graduating, many students who hoped to “make a difference” by caring for others discover that they are ill-prepared to deal with the challenge of nurturing clients within systems that are often run like businesses.  The proposed project will address this shortcoming by giving students the tools and confidence to improve the quality of care within otherwise impersonal, bureaucratic settings.  The impact of this program on a student’s learning will be measured using their team’s solution prototype and presentation.  The micro-certificate that students earn will also be integrated into the existing undergraduate certificate program on Care, Health, and Resilience[6] to make it one credential that feeds into a larger one.    Team Description/Gaps Professor Don Grant will oversee the project.  Ruth Heisler, Teaching Professor of Distinction (IPHY), will organize online, post-competition video calls between mentors and mentees and have mentees give updates via Google Docs on how they are spending their awards. Kathy Noonan, A+S Director of Community Engagement, will help to recruit local practitioners and judges.  Rebecca Komarek, Idea Forge’s Associate Director, will train teams how to use MURAL.  Three undergraduates (Sawyer Herbst, Chasity Valdez, and Elizabeth Long) will create the project’s website, help teams apply MURAL when designing solutions, and assist with marketing.  These three students will also send out wrap-up emails that ask participants to evaluate the event and then use participants’ responses to make recommendations for the next year’s event.  Students (~100) enrolled in the Care, Health, and Resilience certificate program, which Don Grant directs, will decide the theme of each year’s competition through an online poll.    Intended Scale Given that there will be an estimated 7.8 million openings in jobs requiring direct care between now and 2026[7] and 15 percent of undergraduates today plan to work in health-related professions,[8] over 500 CU Boulder students could participate in the proposed program.  The program could also be easily expanded to include students interested in careers that provide support care services (as opposed to direct care), such as hospital administration, clinical data analysis, etc.  And the project could eventually be replicated in each of the 14 workforce regions identified by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, creating a statewide network of collaborative problem solving for aspiring helping professionals.   Funding Request + Intended Use of Funds $64,650 is requested to cover the costs of a faculty member[9] (Don Grant) who will oversee the entire project ($3000/year), a faculty member (Ruth Heisler) who will support mentor-mentee relationships after each competition ($2000/year), a staff worker (Kathy Noonan) who will recruit local practitioners/mentors and judges ($2000/year), honoraria for five practitioners/mentors (total of $750/year), honoraria for three judges (total of $300/year), cash prizes ($3000/year for first place teams, $2000/year for second place teams, and $1000/year for third place teams for each of the next three years), a staff worker (Rebecca Komarek) who will teach teams how to use MURAL on Day 1 ($2000/year), an undergraduate student (Chasity Valdez) who will help teams apply MURAL when designing solutions on Day 2 ($1000/year), an undergraduate student (Sawyer Herbst) who will create a website for the event ($1000/year), an undergraduate student (Elizabeth Loong) who will assist with marketing and celebrating the contest winners via shoutouts on social media ($1000/year), and advertising materials ($500/year).  Finally, to help lower income students (who might need to take days off from their paid positions) participate, up to 20 students who complete the three days will be given a $100 gift card (total of $2000/year).    Anticipated Long-term Needs We are currently working with the Registrar’s Micro-Credentials Program Manager, Noah Geisel, to get the project’s micro-credential approved.  To sustain this no-fee project for undergraduates, a fee-based version of the project for non-degree students will be offered in the future and grant money will be requested from The Colorado Health Foundation. The long-term goal is to make the project part of a new campus center on Redesigning Care.  Finally, to extend the reach of this project beyond the campus, we plan to apply for funding from the Opportunity Now Colorado program that addresses critical workforce shortages across the state in key areas such as health care, early childhood, and K-12 education. [1] [2] [3] Design thinking entails five key steps: empathizing (deeply understanding the clients you are trying to solve a problem for), defining (clarifying the question you are attempting to answer), ideating (brainstorming possible answers to one’s question), prototyping (transforming answers/ideas into tangible artifacts that clients can interact with), and testing (getting feedback from clients about the viability of one’s proposed solution).  [4] Prasad, Monica. 2021. Problem-Solving Sociology: A Guide for Students. Oxford University Press. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] Monies for faculty and staff are to be designated as professional development funds.