Preeti Prabhu is an MIDP alumna who worked for eight years in international organizations including the United Way, the British Council and the Government of Canada. While at Duke, she started her own social enterprise with fellow Duke students and is working to get it off the ground. She is currently working for a non-profit based in Durham, N.C. In the following op-ed, she shares her tips for making sure your graduate program builds skills in innovation.
Innovation is everywhere, but how does it “get inside” us? I come from a family of doctors, computer scientists, chemists and bankers. Innovation and entrepreneurship have always sounded interesting, but not something for me.
My journey towards becoming an innovator began when I attended a seminar called “Social Innovation 101” at Duke University. After much reading, a little writing, many late night conversations and one application, I was competing at the regional finals for a million dollar Hult Prize. Though we did not win, I learned much and developed an incredible network: people and ideas worth much more than a million dollars.
Along the way, I also began to see the application of innovation to public policy and development. To make real change in the world — to make a difference that lasts — always takes new ideas. Sometimes these new ideas are technical or research breakthroughs, such as simplifying HIV prevention in infants or using behavioral economics in policymaking. Other times, innovation means combining old ideas in a new way, such as integrating community involvement with a business incubator to stimulate the local economy in rural North Carolina.
Whether you are looking to select a graduate program that builds your skills in innovation and entrepreneurship — or if you are currently a grad student trying to get the most from your program — these seven steps will help you make innovation work for you.