Collaboration and Mentorship in the World of Innovation
One of the greatest challenges to innovation is stagnation, an inability to think beyond one's own perception and experience to create transformative and impactful solutions. A quick search on the web yields countless articles emphasizing the need for constant collaboration lest innovators find themselves in stale cycles of monotony, thus diminishing their credibility of being innovative in an ever evolving world. A lesser discussed, but equally viable — dare we say necessary — implementation is that of mentorship.


Maia McKinney

Co-authored by Geneva Watford, Marketing Chief for AUiX and Maia McKinney, AUiX High School Intern

June 29, 2023
Read More in Events

At AUiX, collaboration and mentorship are vital strategies that we practice daily —within our nuclear organization and throughout our diverse ecosystem, with proven results. As a component of Air University, The Intellectual and Leadership Development Center of the Air and Space Forces, we are obligated to provide our students with credible, current knowledge and opportunity to expand their capacity as leaders.

We are proud to have built partnerships with some of the top academic institutions in the world who visit Maxwell AFB to share and expand their research with students, faculty and community members on a recurring basis in workshops that strategically take place beyond the base gates.  By opening our LEDx (Leadership Education Development Experience) training sessions to the public, we hope to accomplish more than is our organizational obligation by creating pathways to change throughout the place we call home here in Montgomery, Alabama. 

For each of these sessions, we rely on interns from both the high school and collegiate levels to assist with ideation of concepts and execution.  For this latest post, our High School rising senior shares a recap, from her perspective, of our latest LEDxCambridge series. Our partnership with University of Cambridge is in its second year exploring the idea of base/place relations using the Social Innovation framework. 

(Find here a link to Cambridge’s website and the article, When Cambridge Met Montgomery, written from the perspective of Dr. Michelle Darlington, workshop presenter.)


LEDxCambridge: A Recap by AUiX High School Intern, Maia McKinney

The days prior to the LEDxCambridge workshop, a buzz of what was to come could be felt across the building. The words,“social innovation”, kept making their way into conversations, and yet I hadn’t the faintest clue on what it actually meant. Yes, it has something to do with working with others, but what exactly is it? How is it practically seen and used in the real world and not merely as a concept spoken about in meetings? I asked multiple people involved in the workshop, from other interns like myself to participants. The answers were varied yet alike in that no one could give me a clear definition. It seemed like everyone understood the essence of it but couldn’t put that into specific words. Answers ranged from “I don’t know how to explain” to more thoughtful but equally vague explanations.“Working with others to solve social issues”, a team member told me. While it was a definition, it was still too vague for my liking. I became worried about what I’d be able to gain from this workshop since I didn’t have a concrete grasp on what social innovation was.

My worries dissipated once I got to experience it however. The 3-day conference was held from May 23rd-May25th, hosted by AUiX in collaboration with the University of  Cambridge’s Judge Business School, Centre for Social Innovation. The collaborative training experience focused on how to improve the experience of Montgomery for everyone involved. Both community leaders and Maxwell AFB members were mixed into groups and given one main question about Maxwell’s role in Montgomery. The groups then had to come up with a solution to their problem while implementing some of the lessons learned throughout the week. Three Cambridge-affiliated presenters, Professor Neil Stott, Research Fellow Yvonne Lardner and Dr. Michelle Darlington, headed the workshop by lecturing on various social innovation topics. Professor Stott is the Director of the Master of Studies in Social Innovation Programme, a 2-year research heavy program focused on creating and exploring “innovative solutions to pressing social issues”. Ms. Lardner, currently a doctoral student, recently completed her Master’s in Social Innovation and is an Assistant Research fellow for the school, focusing on the intersectionality of race and gender and how that affects one’s experience with the social environment around them. Dr. Darlington is the Head of Knowledge Transfer of the Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation with a PhD in Drawing and Cognition. All three of these more than qualified speakers presented fascinating lectures on social innovation and how it connects to different areas of one’s life. The lectures touched on the different types of social change, such as social entrepreneurship, social intrapreneurship and social extrapreneurship as well as how they all intertwined together. I was quickly able to understand what social innovation was and gained a new understanding of how it works all while consistently staying interested in the topics.   

Social innovation is an abstract concept, one that can be hard for someone to wrap their head around. However, the talks given were informative and well crafted, making it easy to understand. The speakers were incredibly knowledgeable on the topics they spoke about, their passion for their subjects almost palpable within the room. The speakers both informed and engaged their audience throughout their lessons, keeping them involved the entire time, a skill that can more often than not be overlooked. It created a lasting impact on participants, leaving them fulfilled with a new array of useful and valuable information that could be applied to their own jobs and lives.


Maia is a rising High School Senior honor’s student with aspirations to pursue journalism after college.


First Photo – Front table (L to R): Kevin King, TSgt Brittany Vazquez, Scott Rizer, Dr. Jendia Grissett)

Second Photo – AUiX Interns L to R: Micheal Head, Harley DeMarco

Third Photo – Standing: AUiX Deputy Director LtCol Brent Seton; Seated L to R: Maj. Derrick Birdsell and Isaiah Hines

Far L: Intern Cadet William Parbs with volunteers and Dr. Neil Stott, center


The LEDx (Leadership Education Development eXperience) series is a high-caliber professional program hosted by AUiX and facilitated by world-class academics, military professionals, industry and community partners. Participants collectively tackle intentionally chosen topics within purposefully designed experiences that will provoke thought, initiate new conversations, and build insight and camaraderie.


  1. Cidni M.

    Great job Maia! 🙂

  2. morgan w.

    This is beautiful work Maia!

  3. Mia Dunlap

    Maia, this is so good! You are such a talented writer.


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