Alumni Lunch with Michelle Marshall

On Friday, December 21, Michelle Marshall returned to TechChange for our first “Alumni Lunch” event. Michelle worked with TechChange between December 2015 and June 2016, where she contributed to projects including facilitated live courses with Ashoka Changemakers on “Future Forward: Innovations for Youth Employment in Africa” and “Social Intrapreneurship for Innovation in Health and Wellness.” Additionally, Michelle developed scenario-based modules in Articulate 360 for the SCORE Association to provide training for volunteers with advanced business experience to share their advice one-on-one with new entrepreneurs.

Screenshot from SCORE training

Q: Could you share a bit more about your current role?

For the last few years, I have worked as a knowledge management and open innovation consultant, focused on development in Latin America. The projects I’ve supported are quite diverse in terms of the particular development challenges they address, ranging from monitoring mosquito-borne diseases to climate change adaptation to institutional strengthening. The toolbox I help bring to all of these projects includes collaborative methodologies which seek to make the solution-building process more open and inclusive, widening the circle of participation and improving the flow of information. The more “open” that we can make certain knowledge and processes helps foster more agile, decentralized development possibilities from a wider range of actors.

I also edit the Inter-American Development Bank’s open-knowledge blog called Abierto al Público (or “Open to the Public” in English), where we share reflections and experiences from initiatives around the Latin American and Caribbean region applying open data, open source technology, Creative Commons, and collaborative methodologies for the public good.

Q: What were some ways that your work with TechChange prepared you for your current role?

At TechChange I learned a lot about the creative application of everyday tools to bring people together across the world to share practical experiences, learn and co-create together in a way that’s relatively accessible and not cost-prohibitive — but most importantly, value-added. Just a few years ago, some people would balk at the idea of bringing people together online for more than just a one-to-one call or a broadcast, especially when people would be expected to connect from an area considered to have limited connectivity. I was already a believer thanks to my experience with the Ashoka Changemakers “Future Forward” course with TechChange. I learned never to underestimate the commitment or creativity of your stakeholders to collaborate with you if what you are offering is valuable to them. When people see value in an opportunity, they will find the way to engage, as long as you make room for that in the process.

Q: What are some of your hobbies and passions outside of work?

I was really trying not to look at the screen too much outside of work, but I broke with that when I recently started editing Wikipedia articles, mostly by translating existing ones into Spanish. The long-standing language gap in online content fascinates me, because it lives right on the edge between the tangible and intangible evidence of socioeconomic inequality in the world. Last month was the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and one of the members of the drafting committee was a Chilean, Hernán Santa Cruz. He had a relatively substantial Wikipedia article in English but nothing available in Spanish. Imagine what free access to that knowledge could mean for a young person in Latin America interested in international law or diplomacy. Translating that was my first contribution on Wikipedia.

Other than that, I love to bike and hike. We have to take care of our shared planet! Just say no to petroleum and plastic!

Q: What advice would you have given yourself when you started at TechChange?

I would have encouraged myself to be more outgoing. The TechChange community is so wide-ranging and diverse, and I learned so much from those who I met. But sometimes in person I can be reluctant to approach someone new and start asking questions. Just dive in!

Finally, this is kind of anti-advice, because it’s the mindset that led me to TechChange and has always guided me to find the right opportunity to work on what I love: If you have multiple interests and passions, you don’t have to choose one over the other. Instead figure out how they connect and pursue that idea with confidence. This may feel riskier and require more effort and synthesis, but it will also keep you creative and motivated on your path to whatever you are looking for in your career or in your life, while helping you stand out in areas where your contributions will be unique.


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