Extending the Ripple Effect

Recently WSU launched Ripple Effect a website that bills itself as “an easy and effective way to do enormous good with a single tangible gift for individuals, families and entire villages in developing countries.” The concept works like Heffer International, the WSU site allows visitors to buy various items (a goat, a beehive, a water pump) which are distributed by an NGO operating in Malawi, Africa.

Ripple Effect gathers financial capital
It could be extended to gather Intellectual Capital.

ThinkCycle (2001-02), as described in Nitin Shaway’s MIT doctoral thesis is an example for how to extend Ripple Effect into Intellectual Capital. The project asks “How can we create an environment that encourages distributed individuals and organizations to tackle engineering design challenges in critical problem domains? How should we design appropriate online collaboration platforms, support learning, social incentives and novel property rights to foster innovation in sustainable design? ” Cathy Davidson has coined the term “collaboration by difference” for this general idea.

A recent story in the Daily Evergreen describes WSU Engineers without Borders developing wind turbine for Africa. Their problem statement is “… to make a very cheap, reliable source of energy that won’t need a lot of maintenance.”

About five years ago, CTLT partnered to design a distance offering of Decision Science 470. The students brought problems from their lives and employment; students teams selected one problem of their peers problems to solve collectively. The results were impressive for the students and their employers.

Ripple Effect retains 19% of each donation for indirect costs. An Intellectual Capital version of Ripple Effect would also retain value for the WSU, but in a different way.

In Ripple Effect, capital is applied to problems that have already been identified and whose solution has already been chosen — the farmer without irrigation needs a pump to get water from the nearby stream. The Ripple Effect FAQ mentions that WSU students are involved, but its description is shallow. An Intellectual Capital Ripple Effect would gather problem statements, a la ThinkCycle or the Engineers without Borders, and invite a world audience to contribute expertise to developing solutions. As we learned in DecSc 470, the instructor, at the center would have visibility into problem statements, problem solutions, and other elements of the process. The instructor of DecSc 470 discovered that such access led to new ideas for his research — meta-ideas that arose from mentoring the process. These meta-ideas are equivalent to the indirect costs, a tangible benefit retained from participation in the problem-solving process.

The DecSc 470 process produced artifacts that were used to credential students in that course. Last year’s Engineers without Borders produced an electronic portfolio that could been a credentialing tool. DecSc 470 worked in a threaded discussion inside a course space. Now we might advocate the course use blogs (to recruit help a la ThinkCycle), and with that more public process, we could easily add a Harvesting Gradebook.

2 Responses to “Extending the Ripple Effect”

  1. nils_peterson Says:

    Recent speech by Prez Floyd regarding WSU Extension ties to this idea here. His talk is at the bottom of the page. Talks about roles as facilitator and coach.

  2. More Back@U mockups and an example application « Community-based learning Says:

    […] have posted his problem and invited help at a site (perhaps facilitated by an NGO or WSU’s Ripple Effect) where others could have given feedback on the problem statement. Further, imagine that the site […]

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