Nepal Innovation Program
- Laika Academy
The Nepal Innovation Program is higher education redesigned.
This program is an immersive and collaborative educational program where Australian students work alongside Nepali counterparts and learn through the creation of small-scale innovation and community development projects.
Delivered as a multi-week intensive educational experience, the program draws on best-practice and has numerous features uncommon in higher education: multi-university, multi-disciplinary, community-led, immersive and based on local life.
The Nepal Innovation Program has a range of activities from cultural workshops and site visits (including earthquake-affected sites) – and focuses on a team-based collaborative innovation project to address a local social or environmental challenge.
Co-Designed with the Community:
In international education there is too often a divide where students travel to:
(a) first world countries for education; or
(b) travel to developing countries to “volunteer” or “help”.
This thinking is far too commonplace, and devalues the enormous learning experiences and expertise that exists in emerging regions around the world.
The Nepal Innovation Program breaks this existing paradigm. Co-created in partnership with Abari – a Nepalese socially and environmentally committed research, design and construction firm – this program provides exceptional learning in collaboration with local designers, architects, innovators, famers and artisans.
Where most university assignments aim to simply test the student’s knowledge (with no practical use of their work) – the Nepal Innovation Program was designed to merge genuine community-identified challenges as part of the learning process.
For example – The devastation caused by the 2015 Nepal earthquake was, in part, due to poor quality building materials. One student project aimed to improve the brick making process for low-cost clay bricks. The students started immersing themselves in the existing process – using manual one-by-one clay brick making (non-fired, non-compressed) – a technique used by the poorest members of the community.
They wanted to improve the brick quality through compression, but retaining the low-cost, low-technology. Their invention was an improved wooden brick mould that could use human weight to compress the clay, and the release to keep shape. This process was estimated to improve compression by ~ 30% and would lead to stronger, and safer, buildings.
Asia Engagement and Emerging Regions:
Part of the design of this program was where to undertake this work. While the vast majority of international education is aligned with the Anglosphere, we recognised the importance of collaborating with our neighbours to the north.
As we enter the Asian Century, having skills and experience working in the region is incredibly important. This program is an immersive educational experience and we have workshops on language, culture and, most importantly, lots of time for real world collaboration, socialising and living together.
We also believe that developing and emerging regions are an incredible source of wisdom and expertise, to don’t simply engage with first world partners.
Designed for Inclusion:
We created this program for inclusion and supported students from all backgrounds to get involved (including low socio-economic backgrounds, cultural groups and degree disciplines).
Strategies used include working with numerous universities to get the programs approved for credit and allow students to access numerous scholarships and interest-free travel loans to attend. This has led to various nationalities, ethnic backgrounds, socio-economic students and women in STEM joining.
This program was created to explore complex challenges.
To create solutions that work, it’s important to work across disciplines – arts meets engineering; science meets humanities.
This program has involved students from a range of degrees and disciplines – something rare in the often-siloed university sector.