Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Making Venice free

The Clark presentation gave me a chance to reconnect with WPI trustee Steve Rubin who has taken to heart my proposal to make the Venice Project Center free for all future WPI students as my legacy to the college and to my hometown.   

I envision a 3-pronged plan for sustainability:

1) CELEBRATE – Celebration of Successes  by supporting center Directors to allow them to step back and document our achievements on the occasion of center anniversaries (every 5 years)
2) CONNECT – Connect our centers via thematic sponsor conferences held at the centers where anniversaries are being celebrated to share experiences and  assessments of local impacts of projects
3) PERPETUATE – Develop sustainable plans (based on real estate or on other financial schemes) to fund centers in perpetuity, while providing scholarships for local students to attend WPI and give back

The “celebration” would involve the development of an on-line, interactive portfolio that showcases the accomplishments and history of the particular project center, as we have done in Venice with our Anniversary web site, this blog, our online digital repository,  and our venipedia wiki.  Part of the 5-year celebration cycle involves a reunion for students who attended the project center (with fundraising being part of the objective).
The “connection” would include outreach to sponsors across all of our centers, as well as to  enlightened corporations, NGOs, academics and individuals that would have interest in the schholarship and research themes that each center specializes in.  Each center would organize a symposium and invite worldwide organizations to attend and thus, “connect.”  It would also provide valuable visibility for WPI in various disciplines as well as well as geographies.
The “perpetuate” component is intended to tackle the long-term sustainability of the center with the goal of complete financial independence so that each center can be operated at no cost to WPI and to the students in perpetuity.  The idea (at least for Venice) revolves around the purchase of enough real estate to host all of our students and faculty, i.e. enough apartments to hold about 30 beds.  My plan would not involve WPI directly, rather a "trust" would be set up to own and operate the accommodations.  The idea is not too complicated and will cost only about 5 million dollars.  The only problem is that I cannot afford to do it on my own...
Nevertheless, I have worked out a realistic approach that would allow us to afford the investment and create a self-funding virtuous cycle at the Venice Project Center.  The picture encapsulates the concept, but I will expand on the details in a future.  
Look out for a Venice 3.0 entry in the future!

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