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How do You Make Toast? I-Corps South Regional Summit

Here’s a question for you: How do you make toast? 

Where would you start when explaining the process? With growing and then separating the chaff from the wheat? Or would you jump right to putting pieces of store-bought, sliced bread in a two-slice toaster? 

When I walked in to the 2019 I-Corps South Regional Summit last week, this is the question attendees were tackling. The activity, led by Program Designer Sara Henderson, was intended to get people thinking visually about solving problems. One of the constraints of the exercise: participants could only draw their answers. As I weaved through the tables, I was impressed by the participants’ illustration abilities, envious of the scented markers they were using, and fascinated by the variety of methods of toast making represented in the room.

Everyone started in a different place—going to the store or growing wheat—and had a different journey—toaster versus a lone brick oven—yet everyone ended up with toast.

Doesn’t that sound a lot like life? We all engage in different journeys that transform our perspective and way of communicating and, as a result, our unique experiences shape the ideas that we bring to the table as we interact with one another.

Over 25 I-Corps leaders from around the Southeast brought their unique perspectives in managing I-Corps Sites programs at their respective universities to engage in conversations at Georgia Tech’s campus in Atlanta. Leading up to the event, the I-Corps South team conducted interviews with various Sites program leaders to construct what topics would be most impactful to discuss in person.

Based on that feedback, the day was filled with core themes pertinent to all participants: 

  • How to vary and adapt the I-Corps curriculum

  • Sustainable strategies to keep programs running

  • Growing a healthy pipeline of teams

  • Team readiness for national cohorts

  • Expanding Sites entrepreneurial ecosystems

The summit’s hands-on activities kept everyone engaged in dialogue and on their feet, from mapping a team’s journey through a Sites program, charting challenges that are “in our control” and “out of our control,” and even the unexpected fire drill (it was a scorcher of a day, but at least there were free popsicles!). Different programs face some unique challenges, and a summit of this type helps build a stronger ecosystem to address the common struggles that many I-Corps Site program managers face.


So, how might you answer the next time someone asks you to make toast?

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