Fletcher School holds fourth annual Innovation Week

The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy held its fourth annual Tufts Innovation Week last week. Titled “Innovate Tufts – Fletcher Disrupts,” it consisted of four events and conferences aimed at finding inventive solutions to current challenges.

Miriam Freeman, one of the three organizers and a student in the Fletcher School’s Master of International Business program, explained that both Fletcher students and undergraduates at Tufts would be able to contribute to the event’s theme.

“This has always been a collaboration between Tufts and Fletcher and so we wanted to find a title that would bring those two things together,” she said. “What we tried to do is pick topics for the different days of the conference that reflect issues where Fletcher really has sort of a competitive advantage in terms of tackling some of the big problems.”

Freeman explained that panelists were selected based on both their expertise in the subject matter and their relationships and connections to the local area.

“We tried to keep a lot of our speakers and moderators local, both because of weather considerations and because we think it is really important that since we are up on this hill in Medford, we want people here at the university to have the opportunity to connect with what’s going on in the Greater Boston community,” Freeman said.

The events began on Feb. 12 with a workshop-style conference on the international refugee crisis. Speakers included Eric Aronson, who works with Amnesty International USALiza Ryan, the organizing director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, and others. After the speeches, participants worked in groups to develop solutions to current refugee issues. Audience members discussed a number of questions, such as how refugees should be seen as assets to society.

The second event was a demo day called “Dusting Off Diplomacy,” during which participants pitched ideas to a panel. Freeman explained that the demo day worked in conjunction with the Monday’s session, as participants were able to display their ideas developed from the day before.

“We had some TEDx-style presentations by experts and then we had demos by entrepreneurs, whether they were local or international, and they were able to sort of demo their ideas about different ways of looking at diplomacy,” Freeman said

On Feb. 15, organizers held a third event called “Colombia’s Struggle for Peace,” in which panelists examined Colombia’s peace-building process. Speakers included Elizabeth Hoffecker from the International Development Network (IDIN) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Roxanne Krystalli from the Feinstein International Center at Tufts and Luis Alberto Villegas, the director of rural development organization VallenPaz.

Participants in this event explored the role of social development in rural areas, what it means to have women and feminist groups at the center of peace-building and how to innovate past political standstills in Colombia. Villegas explained that better support for rural residents could play a role in resolving the nation’s political conflicts and building sustainable peace and that rural development problems have been long-standing in Colombia.

“The small farmers in Colombia didn’t have the opportunity and weren’t being provided the legal opportunities that they needed,” Villegas said.

The last event of the conference, held on Feb. 16, was a networking event that allowed participants to develop and discuss their thoughts on the main questions that were brought up during the week. Freeman said she believes Innovation Week, particularly the networking event, was successful in encouraging people to think about creative solutions to commonly-asked questions.

“We pulled out some of the questions that came up throughout the week and we thought that was a really interesting way of integrating the different themes and being able to answer some questions that came up,” Freeman said. “Part of the innovation process is that you’re not going to get definitive solutions to all of the topics that you tackle, but I think that we definitely got people thinking about new ways of doing things and new ways of thinking.”