Mid-Year Update

How Ei is growing, shifting, and adapting in 2020

Victor Saad

Founder

Introduction

First, I hope you’re staying well during this time. And I mean that. The team at Ei and I are with you as we all face the challenges COVID has brought to our homes and workplaces, and as the fight for equity and justice continues. I find courage in reminding myself that this is a moment in history — a moment of deep grief for many and, for all of us, a moment to help one another and to rise up during one of our lifetime’s greatest challenges. If we do so, we’ll be stronger and better for it.

With that in mind, here’s Ei’s mid-year update:

COVID Hits

When the shelter-in-place mandate came down in mid-March, both sides of the company took hits. Many of our Workplace Learning programs were halted and most proposals were postponed. And our higher ed program with UC Berkeley (Experience Lab) was mid-program with students about to take flights to their global work experiences. Grateful for our health, we started to think quickly about how we’d need to adapt to be able to continue offering experiential learning programs in a world that had transitioned to working from home.

Ei Shifts to Remote Workshops

Within just a couple of weeks, we had begun working alongside CEOs, HR Leaders, and Learning & Development leaders to host remote work and virtual workshops for teams ranging from 20 to 2,000. We’ve delivered over 25 virtual workshops, including our flagship 45-day Leaps program, on topics ranging from mastering remote work, to the art of storytelling, and even day-long Design Thinking experiences.

Feedback

Even amidst the hard days at home, participants have shared feedback like, “this was my favorite training experience thus far” and “an amazing way to connect and learn from peers during such unusual times.” While we miss the energy of in-person workshops, we’ve been able to take the magic of our programs and apply them in a way that fosters connection and growth among employees across geographies. Click here to see our virtual offerings.

New Content

We’ve also been writing and building new content and workshops.

  • We launched Work Different, a weekly email in which we curate the top three articles and resources focused on management and organizational leadership. (Subscribe here.)
  • We fulfilled our most recent Kickstarter, 1,000 decks of What’s Worth Doing, hosted our first workshops for WWD supporters, and launched a micro-site to begin seeing what creative ideas our community is considering: https://whatsworthdoing.org/.
  • North Dakota State University’s entrepreneur center (NICE Center) is adopting the “Leaps” methodology for a select group of incoming freshmen. NICE Leap will be a new way to start college — diving into community projects and learning how to design the college experience to solve real-world challenges. We kick off later this month.
  • In July, we launched Career Leaps, a 7-day virtual retreat to help individuals become better at building and navigating their careers. 22 Career Leapers from around the world completed this inaugural 7-day course. It was incredible (will share a recap soon).

College Programs: 100% year-over-year growth

Two years ago, we spun up a new organization in collaboration with our friends at Sage Corps called Experience Lab. Together, we partner with universities to help recent college grads launch their careers through experiences. But in March we were facing a dramatic decrease in applications and inquiries once COVID hit. Our two teams worked together to adjust our marketing strategies and meet college students where they were. To our surprise, we saw our largest applicant pool yet, and our largest cohort to date: 36 students will be joining our fall class, over double last fall’s cohort.

We’ve redesigned the program to be entirely virtual, everything from the teaching to the internships (which we call Field Experiences). And we’ve grown the team to include some of the best instructors and leaders we know.

Also, we’ve been working with another major university on the east coast to be our next partner for Experience Lab. If all goes well, we’ll be able to announce the new partnership within the month.

Stanford Relationship | Design Summer

Our work with Stanford has continued to be a cornerstone both in personal learning and product development. In the past year, we’ve redesigned our curriculum and rebuilt our software — all focused on helping students land summer experiences and learn how to navigate their careers beyond graduation. When COVID hit this spring, many (if not most) Stanford students lost their summer internships. We were asked to quickly expand the Design Summer program beyond our 60 students. Our software and system of curriculum delivery were put to the test. We were able to expand to over 100 new students (160+ students total). Now we’re considering if/how we can make this a year-round class.

Staff Development | Becoming An Anti-Racist Organization

In response to recent protests and nationwide calls for racial justice, Experience Institute is committing itself to becoming an anti-racist organization. We have always sought to be inclusive and welcoming as an organization and in the programs we run, but we understand now that inclusive (and “not racist”) is not enough. We know that the way racism works is that the status quo continues unless deliberately interrupted, and we want to start playing a more active role in challenging racial injustice. To this end, we have assembled an anti-racism advisory board, and will be integrating a commitment to anti-racism into our quarterly strategic planning sessions. We have just begun the work and will have more to share in the fall update.

Looking forward

Though it’s a difficult time in our country and our world, we are just as energized and committed to the growth of Experience Institute.

  • For Workplace Learning, we’ll continue exploring how to best facilitate learning experiences that teach the most helpful business and life skills. And we’ll deliver them virtually and in a compelling manner (relevant curriculum, stories, group practice, 1-on-1 coaching, physical products shipped to participants, etc).
  • For Experience Lab we will support the incoming class of students to Experience Lab and continue nurturing the new university partnership.
  • We will continue creating experiential learning curriculum and tools that support institutions from Stanford to NDSU.
  • We will continue to care for one another and define our individual and organizational responsibility to create a more just and equitable society.

In Closing

The team and I are driven by helping individuals and institutions reimagine higher education and workforce development. And we believe experience is the most transformative way to help an individual learn the skills and mindsets to flourish in any environment. Even in this new remote/virtual world, experience has its place. It may look different, but it can still include self awareness, community, relevant content, access to real-world projects, and feedback from mentors and peers.

If you want to learn more about any of our work, please don’t hesitate to reply. We write these notes with you in mind and we genuinely care about supporting your growth, wherever you are in your life.

I’m excited to continue building and grateful to everyone at Ei for their incredible work, and to our community for your continued support.

Thank you for being here,
Victor, Aaron, and the Ei Team

 

Illustration Credit: Abby Lossing

posted by

Victor Saad

Founder

I’m an author, educator, and community builder living in Chicago. I started Experience Institute, an organization helping college students and career professionals learn and grow through short-term, real-world experiences.

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