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Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship in Higher Ed

Craig Zelizer

February 27, 2015

This week I am delighted to be attending this year's Ashoka U Exchange focused on the intersection of Higher Education and Social Entrepreneurship. This is the sixth year of the Exchange (and my first year attending). From a first year of 90 people attending, this year's conference has over 700 people from around the world who are pushiing the boundaries of higher ed and creating "game changing solutions" to address the challenging problems in the world today.

Academia used to be more about publish or perish, but today it is really about the ability to rapidly deploy and test solutiions to complex problems. Universities and millenials are increasing playing a wonderful role in helping to mobilize, train and mentor the next generation.

Today's students are increasingly taking action to affect positive change by starting new companies, social enterprisese, nonprofits and more and not waiting till they graduate to affect radical positive change.

I am currently sitting in the morning session of the Cordes Innovation awards honoring six leading universitieschangemaker programs.

These include:

1) Change the world.org- Connects talented students to nonprofits to help them gain critical applied experience. Gives students the ability to apply skills to business problems. They are working with local and international orgs. They hope to  build a movement getting students engaged in more socially conscious careers and also help nonprofits adopt more businesslike approaches to social change.

2) Swearer Sparks and Storytellers for Good - Connects the social good community through digital storytelling at Brown. They have already done over 200 stories focused on empathy, resilience, ability to adapt, etc. Stories can advocate for change, impact others, help create a global community and much more.

3)Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub Starting a social venture business is very hard work, with over 80% of all businesses failing. The Coast Capital helps social entrepreneurs can grow and amplify the impact they are seeking. It helps to connect the business and university community to create an eco-system of change. Businesses co-locate in their hub and receive training on business development, measuring impact, student interns, partnerships with faculty and other innovators.

4) Sustainability and Social Innovation and Residential Academic Program Created a space at the U of Colorado at Boulder for entering students who live in a green  (LEED certified) building and in community. The students have mentors,classes in sustainability, work in partnership with the community and ease the transition to university life. Over 500 students have completed the cornerstone class. Several students have helped to launch student enterprises.

5) Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator at Duke - Every year more than 145,000 women die during childbirth and there are over 2,000,000 stillborn deaths each year.  At Duke the accelerator is working to harness the faculty, staff and alum across Duke to find social entrepreneurs from around the world who have proven solutions to addressing health issues to with the knowledge, systems, and networks needed to succeed.

6)  The Sustainable City Year Program  - A radically simple program to connect universities in a systematic level to work in partnership to city partner identified initiatives. Over 60,000 + students hours are given each year and included in the city's work plan. They work on a range of projects including sustainable architecture, engaging marginalized communities, etc.

All of the initiatives are eager to share and learn from others in the US and around the world. Would encourage you to learn more about each awardee and share on PCDN other examples.

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