What is philanthropy?
That was the first question I remember asking myself as I walked into the River Building bright and early on Monday morning.
The answer was plain and simple: I had no idea!
The second question I asked myself, what is social innovation, earned the same response.
Sure…I knew that social innovation was “novel” and that it focused on “big” change. I knew that it valued local knowledge, collaborations, and partnerships. But what did all of this really mean? I had done the readings, taken notes, and completed the pre-assignment. Yet, somehow, I still had no idea what was going on. There I was, a public administration student, heading into my first ever philanthropy course on social innovation. And I had no idea what any of those words meant!
Feeling extremely nervous and unsure about myself, I walked into Room 3220 that was to be our home for the next five days. I was immediately greeted at the door by the professor, Omar. I thought I would feel some relief….finally, I would meet the mysterious person sending me emails and course outlines, who had been hiding somewhere in our online class forum for several weeks. But, instead, I felt more confusion: The only Omar I had ever known was my favourite character from The Wire. But here Omar was, standing right in front of me, with no do-rag and no Baltimore accent.
I suddenly became acutely aware that I had left the real world as I knew it, and entered the Philanthropic World!
Everything was different here. The desks were arranged in a weird way and everyone kept referring to the classroom as a “learning space”. What was a learning space? Again, I had no idea. Just another thing I had to add to my list of things I didn’t know, which seemed to be getting longer and longer with every minute I spent is this new world.
Even the faces were unknown to me. They were new, and much older than mine. As I navigated this new environment, I very quickly felt really small and terribly aware of my age.
Where was my world? And, how could I get back?
I desperately wanted to escape the Philanthropic World!