Getting into Social Innovation — at Holis

Miguel Lobato

May 14, 2020

photo: Julia Karczewska / Holis School. 2018

I was hungry for working in a social initiative, but I did not know where to start, then I found Holis. It was summer and I was excited to attend my first hands-on social innovation project. The place I was heading was a rural area in Poland, which I was not even able to pronounce. Believe me, Radzyn Podlaski was a hard word to spell for a Mexican guy who is inexperienced in East-European culture. I didn’t know what to expect from this project, but the program got my trust from the good experience of the application.

A warmth and familiar welcoming were waiting for me in the open fields of the Polish countryside. It was nothing formal, but it is what made it so great. Later that day, a series of kick-off events started giving shape to what the ten-day schedule was going to be. It exceeded my expectations, and I understood what they meant with the holistic experience of the summer school.

The introduction (photo: Julia Karczewska / Holis School. 2018)

Those were ten days that changed me for life. I know it sounds cheesy to say it that way, this text is not to convince you to join a religious experience. The point of Holis School is not that, but it’s important to highlight the fact to understand my impressions of it.

A brief personal background is necessary at this point. Up to the date, before I attended Holis, I only had theoretical experience working in social innovation projects. You know what I mean, sitting in a round table at the University and discussing the problems of our society with my fellow students. I learned methods and worked on case studies, but I never really got to validate any of them. So jumping back to the story, I was a rookie about to experience real-life work.

During those ten days in Poland, we got to finish and present a project to the community. We got feedback not only from our sponsors (government and local social organizations) but also from the inhabitants of the county. We got to know them and learn from their daily concerns. They didn’t only share their problems, but they also participated in our creative sessions, sharing the solutions they had in mind. It felt that we were not doing anything else but giving shape to all the inputs we were getting.

Interviews (photo: Julia Karczewska / Holis School. 2018)

It is hard sometimes for designers to hand over the ideation part of the project. I realized that it was not our “problem-solving creativity’’ the skill needed in this project. The folks from the county were the right ones to take care of that part of the project. The required ability of our team was to give shape to all the input we were getting. At the end of the day, this was a project from the community for the community; they would be the ones benefiting from it and also working to make it happen.

Final presentation and exhibition (photo: Julia Karczewska / Holis School. 2018)

Key takeaways from experience:

  • Got hands-on work on social projects
  • Learn about social innovation from experts in the field
  • Get inspired by like-minded people that attend the summer school
  • Enjoy excellent recreation time in rural areas connecting with nature
  • Learn to collaborate with the community you are delivering the project to
  • Become part of a community that is concerned about our society
  • Discover why everyone that attended this summer school highlights how tasty the food they serve is.
The ‘’Space to face’’ team (photo: Julia Karczewska / Holis School. 2018)

Fast forward, two years later, I’m now part of the Holis community, supporting as much as I can to this Social Innovation Enabler to keep going. I’m happy to feel that I belong to a network of moral people. If you resonate with this story and want to be part of a community for social innovation, you should make yourself a favor and join this community.

Links to follow:

If you want to know more about Holis go for this link:

If you are curious about the project, our team presented:

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