General Intelligences: Making Common Sense More Common for All
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Finals Presentation | Instagram | Website | TikTok
General Intelligences — created by Magda Wojtara, Gyanesh Mishra and Eric Moreno — is a non-profit, peer-to-peer based coalition that targets the “hidden curriculum” of adult life skills and social capital, fundamental means to success. The organization is focused on empowering those ages 17–26 from disadvantaged and marginalized backgrounds.
Story by Sydney Moore and Taylor Schott
Making these “common sense” skills more common and accessible is not light work, especially within the scope of underfunded public education, and the compounding effect on marginalized and already disadvantaged communities. However, General Intelligences, who took ownership of the phrase after a back-breaking semester’s worth of work with Innovation in Action, seem up to the task. And their hard work has certainly paid off, as they took third place at this year’s Innovation in Action Final Showcase, taking home an award of $5,000.
For a relatively young project, General Intelligence’s numbers are anything but minor: 6,000 students have been reached, residing in over 75 countries. Their website boasts an impressive variance in resources, with 250 articles already published. It is packed full of tools like downloadable study guides, workshops and mentorships, and reserves of educational blogs. Even more impressive: the range of content creators General Intelligence hosts includes students who hail from universities across the country, and who donate their knowledge in areas ranging from pre-professional skill sets to financial literacy.
General Intelligences formed around a strong desire to tackle educational inequities — the idea first came about when Magda was struggling to navigate the lengthy internship recruiting and graduate school application processes. They serve as a rite of passage for so many students, and yet each year so many of us are shocked at just how tumultuous and consuming these processes can be — it seems like everyone is supposed to just know what to do. As the idea started to come to life, Gyanesh and Eric joined the team as a part of the Innovation in Action program.
The Team’s Biggest Takeaways
One of the hallmarks of an event like IiA is the opportunity it encourages participants to collaborate with students, educators, and entrepreneurs from a range of studies and backgrounds, and General Intelligences is a prime example of a team that did just that, and thrived because of it. A truly diverse group, consisting of founder Madga, a rising senior at Michigan majoring in neuroscience; Eric, a graduate student at UM’s School of Information with ten years of corporate work experience; and Gyanesh, a recent master’s graduate of the Ross School of Business, came together to design a highly innovative and plentiful resource for students struggling amidst a pandemic, and in dire need of this traditionally concealed knowledge.
For Eric, IiA was an exciting opportunity to utilize his corporate work experience outside of the traditional environment for a project aimed toward social good. He discussed how easy it is to have a “save the world” mentality when you take part in an imaginative solutions event like IiA, especially when the world is rampant with social, economic, and political issues. He advises to “start with a simple objective”. Finding an accomplishable project will not only increase your chances at finishing within the time frame, but it will also give you the room to grow and show judges where your solution can expand. During the design process, Magda was very aware of the importance of storytelling. She noted that it is an often abandoned component of entrepreneurship, but it is essential to allowing others to see your solutions and strategies, and to gain support. Observes Magda, “it’s not a skill you can pick up immediately”.
When you talk to the team, you get a sense of the hours they poured into crafting their interface, fine tuning minute details that, as Eric Moreno put it, “you have to pay attention from day one — even just to define and then meet your objective”. On that same note, Magda reflected that before the project building begins, you must have a strong vision, which requires a precise mission statement that accurately represents what you intend to accomplish. Not only that, but when it comes time to present their ideas to the IiA judges, teams have to learn how to encapsulate the projects they’ve been working on for months into a short pitch! The team admitted that these minute details, which can ultimately determine the success of your project, could become very tedious and prove challenging.
On top of that, the team was surprised to find that the feedback they received during the design process, which is crucial for uncovering areas for improvement, was occasionally contradictory. To handle these instances with care, the team would work together to keep their mission statement visible in every facet of the organization, absorbing feedback while maintaining their vision.
Now armed with their well-earned winning funds and feedback from judges, General Intelligences plans to continue expanding their organization through new community partnerships, a wider search engine, and various scaffolding strategies in order to reach a greater audience —one of their main goals includes an increase in reach of at least 15,000 students by the end of the year.
This summer, General Intelligences is also offering workshops at Michigan’s Comprehensive Studies Program, an organization that works to advise, counsel, and support incoming students transitioning to university life. Magda sees this upcoming opportunity as one that can extend and embolden the work that her organization has put out so far.
To follow their work or read more General Intelligences’ initiatives and resources, visit their website here, watch for news about workshops and events on their Instagram, or even view some clips on their TikTok!