Since spring of 2013, staff members from our Professional Development Center have been working closely with the folks at Noble Impact in Little Rock, Ark., to help that organization develop its inaugural INSTITUTE program, which was held last summer in Arkansas. For the uninitiated, Noble Impact is a nonprofit committed to engaging kindergarten through 12th graders as they traverse the intersection of public service and entrepreneurship.
Chad Williamson, the co-founder of Noble Impact, visited us here at Eagle Rock years ago and was impressed enough to come back last year to see if we could help his team by collaborating on the creation of curriculum for the first INSTITUTE program.
The INSTITUTE of Noble Impact is more than an all-caps nine-letter non-abbreviated acronym. It’s also a noble concept — and the first of its kind summer program with a single goal in mind. That purpose is to commit students to enact social change.
Now here’s where it gets weird. The idea is for these students to perform a noble public service while practicing entrepreneurship. Can anyone say oxymoron? Is this a conflict in philosophies? Helping others while helping yourself? How do these seemingly opposing philosophies meld into a single action with a combined purpose?
The INSTITUTE — working in concert with the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service — skillfully addresses the dialectic between public service and entrepreneurship. The challenge for students is to find practical approaches to “making a difference” in their community.
The weeklong summer program challenges INSTITUTE students to think about community issues, ideas for solutions — ultimately creating sustainable impact.
For our part, Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center staff helped Noble think through its curriculum. Going forward, we will serve as Noble’s curriculum and professional development adviser, with a keen focus on supporting the organization in its attempt growth in Arkansas.
We think what Noble has discovered is an effective way to engage students in their own education; namely, through the active pursuit of public service performed while operating as budding entrepreneurs — all with the vision of becoming contributing citizens of society.
Last year, Dan Condon, our associate director of professional development, witnessed the COURSE in action and spoke with students at eStem Public Charter School in Little Rock. The COURSE — another non-abbreviated acronym — is a yearlong course developed to provide the foundations of understanding in regards to the connection between public service and entrepreneurship. Condon was also a facilitator this summer in Fort Smith, Ark., for the second-ever INSTITUTE.
One outcome of this experience is schools from around the country reaching out to Noble Impact to express an interest in delivering the COURSE. And before the New Year, we look forward to working with Noble to come up with a Professional Development Plan for on-boarding schools that want to deliver the Noble COURSE in their communities.