Edinburgh to Detroit - My Experience of the Ford Fellowship

My experience as a Ford Community Impact Fellow

 

This summer, I became a Community Impact Fellow of the Ford Fund. it was a very valuable experience and in this post I would like to share my thoughts about applying, the company culture, and the lessons I learned. The Ford Fund began in 1949, and since then have invested nearly $1.5 billion in civic organizations around the world to help drive a brighter future. Hopefully, this will be a helpful account for anyone who considers applying to be a fellow next year.

 

Applying

 

I first heard about the opportunity through Enactus. Last year, the Enactus project I was leading was a finalist in the Ford UK Innovation Challenge. With the prize money we were able to invest in better equipment and expand the reach of our soup selling social enterprise. So when I got an email in May from a Ford Fund manager about an opportunity to work with the team and interact with like-minded students from around the world I jumped at the chance. The application process was all about recounting my experience leading teams and creating impact. It was a breath of fresh air after countless applications where companies seemed more interested in whether I could evaluate a spreadsheet in 10 seconds than whether I was passionate about anything. I ultimately received and accepted my offer in June, two weeks before I would fly out to Detroit to begin my fellowship at the Ford World headquarters.

 

Detroit

 

12 applicants were chosen to participate in the program. Four from the UK, all Enactus students, and eight Americans. I couldn't have asked for a better group. The fact that everyone was super passionate about wanting to make a difference in the world meant that there was always a positive energy in the room. Nobody took themselves too seriously and every minute of free time was filled with great conversation. 

 

We were tasked with developing an ‘innovation ecosystem’ that would foster collaboration and communication between Ford funded projects across the globe. Over the course of the first two days we conducted a needs assessment with the Ford Fund Global and US regional managers and brainstormed the issues currently hindering community building in the Ford network. Equipped with that foundation we split into smaller teams to prototype various solutions to the brief ranging from online platforms to global summits. I really appreciated how much freedom we were given to innovate. The Ford team were all happy to answer any questions and seemed genuinely invested in helping us get the most out of the experience.

 

It was a busy week but we still found time to explore downtown Detroit. The city boasts more than a few architectural gems and a riverwalk that's great for a relaxing stroll on a sunny day. To top it off we were able to enjoy some of the city’s best restaurants courtesy of the Ford team.

 

As much as I didn’t want it to happen, our last day did come. We presented our prototypes, said our heartfelt goodbyes and headed home already planning our next moves over Whatsapp before our next trip out to Detroit!

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