Most students wait until after graduation to apply what they’ve learned in class to the real world. But Master’s students in the Innovation, Governments and Growth seminar at the Munk School of Global Affairs earn grades by informing real policy across the border. 

Taught by Professor Dan Breznitz, Munk Chair of Innovation Studies and co-director of the School’s Innovation Policy Lab; the Innovation, Governments and Growth class is an immersive, hands-on course where second-year students take on clients from around the world and help them tackle real issues surrounding global innovation.

“The idea behind the course is to get us to understand how innovation fits in to everything else that we’ve studied,” says Irene Ferro Colmenares (MGA ‘15), who graduated from the Master of Global Affairs program this spring. “We tend to think of innovation as technology-based, but that’s always not the case. Innovation can be lots of things.”

This year’s class project allowed students to work closely with the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology, a newly established branch of government in Jalisco, Mexico. Acting as both adviser and client was Dr. Ruy Cervantes Fergoso, the Ministry’s director of innovation, society and knowledge economy. Working together with Breznitz and Cervantes, students were given four project areas and three months to develop research reports intended to help the State of Jalisco shape innovation policies, programs and laws. In October, select students from the class traveled to Jalisco’s capital Guadalajara to present their reports to government officials at the inaugural Public Policy Innovation Seminar.

“The results of the seminar were so positive,” says Vivian Cheung (MGA ’15), whose group worked on developing frameworks for digital inclusion. “We had our thumbs on a pulse in Mexico. Hopefully with our publications, they can take their plans forward.”

The State of Jalisco is already employing some of the recommendations outlined in the students’ reports. Based on student proposals, the Ministry has introduced public policy to foster social innovation and digital inclusion—two of the key priorities Cervantes identified for Breznitz’s class.

“I think this course shows the true potential of our students,” says Breznitz. “The wonderful thing about working with such talent is that you only need to give them an opportunity to innovate and change the world. Our students have managed to accomplish more working with the Government of Jalisco in three months than the Government of Canada has done for Mexico in years.”

Ferro asserts that the opportunity to foster real innovation in Jalisco made for an enhanced learning experience.

“When you’re a student, you usually write a paper, get a grade and then file it away,” says Ferro, whose group report focused on Jalisco’s innovation ecosystem. “But going to Mexico was amazing. The people we worked with are dedicating their lives to innovation. It was exciting to be able to contribute to that.”

See more MGA students talk about their experience working with the State of Jalisco in this video.

Watch Dan Breznitz and Ruy Cervantes talk about the Innovation, Governments and Growth class in this video.