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TWII Alum Reflects on Harvard

A REFLECTION ESSAY ON MY HARVARD CROSSROADS SUMMER PROGRAMME: MY HARVARD-DUBAI

EXPERIENCE

With much anxiety, excitement and suspense, I set off for the Harvard Crossroads Summer program on 9 th August, 2017, and arrived after a long flight on 10 th August, 2017. I arrived at the Rove Hotel at a little past 9pm. I missed the welcome reception that was held for participating students, but was warmly welcomed by the Club Administrator, Anne, checked in, ate, freshened up, and rested for the next day’s activities.

DAY 1 Next morning, after having breakfast and meeting with the rest of the students, we were driven to the Dubai International Finance Center (DIFC) Academy where we had all our course work. We were welcomed to the class by Mr. Goulam Amarsy (President, Harvard Alumni Club, GCC) and other team members. Our first case was on crowdsourcing (the Threadless case), delivered by Prof. Karim Lakhani. The case bothered on community-focused businesses, with Threadless being a classic example. We discussed some essentials or features and importance of community businesses as juxtapose traditional businesses. The class extensively deliberated on the dilemma faced by Threadless: whether to accept an offer to produce for a retail store. From the discussions, we came up with three types of incentive or motivation; intrinsic, extrinsic and pro-social. We further concluded that businesses must consider all three types of motivation since a business’ community is made up of different individuals with differing needs, and it will be very helpful for a business to meet such differing needs. The class was very interactive, and I took active part in the deliberations, as I was the first student to speak in the class. From the discussion, I learnt that it is essential to focus on the community when doing business since it has inherent benefits to both the community and business. I also learnt that, certain business decisions would be taken without necessarily involving the community, but efforts must be made to not totally cut community off from the business.

Session two began after we had had a break time and had talks from some Harvard Business School Alumni. They shared their experiences with us and encouraged us. They main thrust of their talk was that of being and remaining focused, being disciplined and hardworking. Their messages really motivated we, the students a lot, and we appreciated them more. Prof. Karim Lakhani, again handled the second session, since it was the actual lecture to the Threadless case we treated in the first session. The topic was “The Crowd as an Innovation Partner. Once again, we enjoyed the lecture even the more since students had built momentum right from the onset. Through the discussions, it was established that opening up a business to the community makes it a lot easier to both identify and solve problems more effectively. As an example, Prof. Lakhani made us look at how NASA used a public contest to gather information on solving the problem of keeping foods fresher while in space. He mentioned that such competition can be limited to a section of the public or be more opened. It was established that more opened competitions yield much desirable results.

One big lesson I picked from this second session was that, often than not, businesses would have to take a look outside their sphere in order to be more innovative and creative: it is usually the crowd that tend to do a more objective analysis of problems, understand them better and offer a more lasting solution. Last but not least, we studied the El Sistema case to end our course work for the day. The case unraveled how one Jose Antonio Abreu birthed the idea of helping the youth of Venezuela overcome material poverty. They train the young ones how to play musical instruments and sing, which gives them a sense of worth, belongingness, an urge to do more with their lives to overcome poverty and stay away from other social vices. The programme has been very successful until now, that they face the problem of sustainability in terms of finance. Prof. Tarun Khanna led the session. It was as interesting and interactive as the previous sessions.

Lessons learnt are that in order to be creative, one must think outside the box; one can de creative even outside his or her specialized field. It is needful to create systems that are self-sustainable. Later that evening, we had a field trip to the Dubai mall, where we witnessed the fountain display, as well as Burj Khaliffa (the world’s tallest tower). We later joined the Amarsy family at their residence to have dinner. We had the chance to interact with our professors and our colleagues.

We were further inspired by the innovative ways by which the Thumbay Group has developed. This taught me to see opportunities even when they seem non-existent, believe in ourselves, seek advice where necessary and work hard at achieving our dreams. We then had our closing ceremony, where we recapped our activities and experiences during the programme. Appreciation was shown to the organizing team, sponsors and participants. The organizing team then presented certificates to participants and we took group photos. The very final moment at the Harvard Summer Programme, was spent at the Expo 2020 site. We learnt at the site that Dubai will the hosting millions of the world’s population from over hundred countries, as they host Expo 2020. They are focusing on sustainability and would encourage as many countries as possible to participate as they exhibit their innovative inventions to the whole world. To ensure that the youth is not left out of such a life changing experience at Expo 2020, they are accepting youth volunteers from all over the world. We took some more group pictures and headed back to the hotel. It was an awesome experience!

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