The Real World Is Our Classroom

Courtney Lawrence 1
Article by: Courtney Lawrence
The Real World Is Our Classroom

Amsterdam Creative Leadership Program participant Courtney Lawrence shares a call for applications to join the next DSIL class, her concept brought to Amsterdam to scale in 2015.


From now through May 15th scholarship and program applications are open for DSIL – Designing for Social Innovation and Leadership – a global certificate training program designed for individuals with passion, vision and readiness to take social impact to the next level. DSIL is academically backed by the Centre for Executive Education of the United Nations University for Peace' and operates online and in the field. Our model redefines what conventional education has historically pushed - knowledge comes from the top and learning occurs only in a class - instead we ‘flip the experts’ and run our trainings on the ground and in the field. Our pedagogy leverages collaboration with local leaders in social innovation communities and leans on global thought and industry leaders through live online sessions in the Virtual Classroom. We kickoff online this August 15th in parallel with field trainings across Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia (West Bali), Cambodia, Taiwan and the Philippines. Check out more and share this with others you think may benefit. Want to stay looped in? Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook too.

DSIL – Designing for Social Innovation and Leadership – a global certificate training program designed for individuals with passion, vision and readiness to take social impact to the next level. Click To Tweet

It's a THNK journey

DSIL was the accelerator concept that I brought to Amsterdam to scale in 2015 among my Class 7 Cohort. I originally launched DSIL as a social enterprise in late 2014. After a successful pilot, I knew I needed to cross-pollinate ideas among diverse thinkers and also formalize a team to grow this effort. Thanks to Roshan Paul’s encouragement (THNK Class 1 and former colleague at Ashoka),  I was convinced to join THNK. I have not looked back since – THNK was a sounding board community that pushed and supported me in so many dynamic ways. Since the inception of DSIL, we have received over 600 applications from over 80 countries for our online and field programs across Southeast Asia. To date we have nearly 100 alumni from 35 countries, over 30 online speakers (representing all continents), and a growing collaboration network of dozens of high impact organizations – ranging from internationally recognized institutions like, the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (the, Ashoka, and Acumen+, to hundreds of grassroots based local partners.

Since DSIL's inception, they have received over 600 applicants from 80 different countries for their online and field programs across South-East Asia. Click To Tweet

Wait, but why?

Starting DSIL was my response and reframe to a personal perception of  the world’s most pressing challenges. With a formal background in sustainable economic development, and a personal passion for our world at large, (I’ve been studying, traveling and working my way across 60+ countries at this point) I wanted to shift my previous sense of disempowerment to amplifying what is actually possible on a larger scale. DSIL was created with two things in mind: first, nothing is done alone in silos and second, local communities are best positioned to generate effective  solutions to the problems they face. I don’t want to ‘save’ anyone or any one issue- I want to work with people on a mission to better themselves and their local context.  This is also why our curriculum prioritizes human-centered design, social and personal innovation methodologies as a lever for building impact. I believe that the aggregate of efforts made by local leaders across the world will result in the systems change needed to calibrate for the imbalances- environmentally, economically and socially. My work with DSIL centers around this theory of change. Yet, we need to move fast as a collective for this global impact to manifest. We need more leaders ready to step up and lean in – and this is what I have seen happen in our own growing community – see DSIL alumni impact around the world here.

Where you come in the mix

Are you our next speaker, trainer, or nominator of participants? Last year we had THNK faculty and participants from around the globe lead sessions on our Virtual Classroom: Menno Van Dijk (see more about his session on this THNK post), Rajiv Bell, Robert Wolfe, Roshan Paul (Amani Institute),  Shana Dressler (Google 30 Weeks), Laura Talsma (The Users Advocate), Ama Van Dantzig (Dr.Monk), Rens ter Weijde (Purpose +), and John Monks (DOTWORKS) –  representing a little over 30% of the 2015 speaker roster. If you are based in Asia, we have multiple programs in the region and potentially your training and expertise would be complementary. Email me at to let me know your ideas.

To learn about how THNK can support you in your endeavor or to join THNK’s Executive Leadership Program.