Bienvenidos Seed 2013 Fellows!

The countdown to the start of the 2013 Seed Project seemed to accelerate as the team members’ arrival neared. We put some final touches on the on-boarding and training schedule of the first week of the Seed process, bought some new chairs, and reorganized the office to create space for our growing team.  Now, the latter might not sound like a big undertaking, but at Polymath, it involves displacing approximately a million Post-Its, which requires a significant group effort. Finally, on August 13th, seven new faces hailing from all around the world (Croatia, Holland, Mexico, Germany, USA, and Colombia) showed up at the Polymath office in Bogota, joining forces with three veteran Polymaths to form our long-awaited group of 2013 Seed Fellows.

As Polymath’s first Seed Preparation Intern, for the past three months, I’ve helped Polymath prepare for version 2.0 of the Seed, helping to narrow down the options of potential sectors by doing tons of market research, and thinking about how to improve the Seed experience based on feedback from last year’s Fellows.  As I wrap up my time at Polymath, I wanted to share a few fun facts relating to this first few weeks of the Seed Process, as well as share the exciting news regarding the themes that our Seed teams chose to focus on.

First, here are five fun facts from the first 3 weeks of the seed process:

  1. All of our seed members arrived safe and sound in Bogota but…one of the fellows was locked out of his apartment overnight on the night of his arrival when his key broke inside the lock.
  2. We’ve got two power-house teams made up of design gurus and business wizards but…despite our huge efforts during recruitment, we’ve only managed to find one female per team. We’d love to hear from more women for Seed 2014!
  3. We’re proud and excited to have reached consensus on our two themes of interest but…we’re well aware that it was only the first of hundreds of decisions to be made in the Seed process.
  4. We had a fantastic team-building retreat in Tocaima but…one of our partners got stung by a scorpion at the bottom of the swimming pool on the first night. Ouch.
  5. We’ve already conducted dozens of user interviews between both teams but…we only have one more week of interviews to go, and there is still so much to learn!


As you can see, our teams are off to a strong start! But now the burning question is…What have the Seed Teams chosen to work on?

By the time the Teams arrived in Bogotá, the partners and I, with some participation from the whole office, had already conducted weeks of research and done some initial filtering for potential themes of interest. We supplied the fellows with four sector briefings, each profiling a sector or a population segment, and during week one we had a few workshops to reach a consensus on their team preference.

One of the two teams reached an immediate consensus – they chose to focus on the needs of working women, a rapidly growing segment of the population in Colombia and Latin America. As such, they like to refer to themselves as the “ladies” team, though the irony of their quasi-exclusively male team composition is not lost on us.

The other team, after a more heated debate, came together around addressing problems within employment markets – misalignment between education levels and accessible job opportunities, high levels of informality, limited job mobility for mature employees, and so on. In an attempt to find a sexier name to compete with “the ladies”, the team landed on “labor markets”, but they’re still arguing on whether or not they should write labor with a “u”. I guess there are inevitable upsides and downsides to cross-cultural collaboration.

This was only meant to be a sneak preview, so stay tuned for an upcoming post introducing our Fellows individually, and for exciting developments from the two Seed teams as they crystalize their learnings about the reality of Colombian working women and various stakeholders in the labor market.

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