CSEI 2020 Reimagines the Future of Work

Much like organizations around the world, Cochrane Summer Economic Institute (CSEI) has gone remote and consists of a disparate workforce. For the month of July, twenty-six rising high school seniors from 10 Richmond area schools are leveraging online and cloud-based technology to problem solve for CSEI partner organizations. CSEI is a community outreach program funded, in part, by the Powell Economic Education Foundation administered by Collegiate School’s Powell Institute for Responsible Citizenship.
Participating students join CSEI 2020 from:
  • Appomattox Regional Governor's School for the Arts and Technology 
  • Clover Hill High School
  • Collegiate School
  • J.R. Tucker High School 
  • Meadowbrook High School
  • Mills E. Godwin High School
  • Saint Gertrude High School
  • St. Catherine's School
  • St. Christopher's School
  • The Steward School
Though CSEI 2020 is structurally very different from years past, the remote program is providing students with the opportunity to learn from mentors and share with colleges, universities and future employers personal growth, achievements and solutions to real business challenges made in the midst of an uncertain time.

CSEI is grateful to its four partner organizations, Dominion EnergyImpact MakersMidas of Richmond and the Richmond Squirrels who committed to the program and students this spring in the midst of uncertainty, logistical challenges and structural ambiguity. Partner organizations have charged the students with solving real, very important challenges for their businesses. Those challenges include:
  • Designing a remote community experience for Dominion Energy's young professionals employee resource group to enhance internal employee engagement.
  • Designing a method to regularly share Impact Makers' unique culture with it's dispersed workforce.
  • Designing a new customer experience that continues to deliver on Midas of Richmond's promise - Cars don’t work without proper care. Neither do communities. That’s why we do both. Welcome home, Richmond - even in the era of COVID-19.
  • Designing a new customer experience for the Richmond Squirrels that follows CDC guidelines and aligns with the Richmond Squirrel's core business - the memory making business - even in the era of COVID-19.
CSEI faculty, Collegiate teacher Amy Leibowitz and Trina Clemans, Collegiate's Director of Economic Literacy and Entreprepreneurship, work with students to develop and enhance skills, knowledge and mindsets that enable student teams to unpack multiple perspectives and problem solve for partner companies. That work has included learning the Right Question Institute's Question Formulation Technique and IDEO's Design Thinking Methods and Mindsets.

Guest speaker John Dau, Collegiate's Global Scholar-in-Residence and founder of the John Dau Foundation, joined a Zoom meeting to share the mindsets that helped him persevere from South Sudanese refugee to prominent human rights advocate and entrepreneur. ​"I think people refuse to try things because they fear failure." Mr. Dau shared, "there have been many impossible situations in my life, but I keep trying. My family in Sudan thought I was dead and I feared they were dead, but 20 years later we were reunited. You can't give up."

Executive Creative Director Mike Pierantozzi shared how the design thinking process informed his team's work on the C21 Dinner, an experience designed to bring awareness to ‘Law Syndrome,’ an issue that prevents those who have Down Syndrome from earning crucial healthcare benefits. The campaign was a recipient of a 2019 Gold EFFIE and Webby Award for Public Service and Activism.

Over the coming weeks, students will leverage their problem solving knowledge, skills and mindsets to conduct interviews and research analogous experiences to brainstorm solutions for CSEI partner organizations. Participants and faculty will continue to gather virtually to welcome guest speakers, play games and run through exercises that reinforce problem solving competencies.