By Cindy Cooper, Co-founder & Director, PSU’s Impact Entrepreneurs
One of my favorite quotes from our 2013 Elevating Impact Summit was when Eric Dawson, Co-founder & President of Peace First, said, “Children aren’t the future. Children are the present.”
I’ve since thought a lot about the opportunity Eric laid out before us.
An Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, Portland State University is considered one of the world’s leading universities for making changemakers and inspiring action for a better world. I wondered how Impact Entrepreneurs, as a program in a university, could situate youth in our efforts to inspire, incubate and accelerate impact through the promise of business.
Then, I met George Zaninovich who knows a lot about tapping into the power of youth. George created PLACE: Planning and Leadership Across City Environments. A program of Portland’s Catlin Gabel school, PLACE provides high school students and recent graduates from any regional school with an opportunity to lead civic and urban planning projects that create positive change in Portland. For example, designing solutions to food insecurity in outer SE Portland in partnership with Zenger Farm, and developing transportation solutions and enhancing the safety on the Powell corridor with the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.
In its seventh year, PLACE has engaged thousands of Portlanders in its projects and worked with hundreds of students from 18 high schools. PLACE has even made its program open source by creating a comprehensive curriculum guide that has been downloaded in more than 50 cities across the world.
Talking with George, we found shared learning goals and beliefs with one big difference: Where PLACE’s experiential projects are defined by the needs of community leaders and urban environments, Impact Entrepreneurs roots its hands-on learning in identifying and pursuing personal purpose for social change. This is the type of complementarity that collective impact is made from!
The decision to work together was a no-brainer, and over many months we co-created an approach that integrates Impact Entrepreneurs’ into PLACE’s 2015 summer program. The collaboration means that 24 PLACE students will explore personal changemaking through the lens of social innovation. They will meet inspiring innovators, examine best practices, and engage in activities to develop their own purpose and pathways toward making a lasting difference.
PLACE’s 2015 program starts July 6th. We’ll bring you updates as we go. Let the changemaking begin!
Jacen Greene, Impact Entrepreneurs, & George Zaninovich, PLACE
I’m Nadya Okamoto, a 17-year-old in Portland, OR determined to make a difference, and founder and executive director of Camions of Care (COC). COC is a nonprofit organization based here in Portland that strives to address the natural needs of homeless women primarily through the distribution of feminine hygiene product care packages. In the last six months, we have distributed over 1,500 care packages to women in Portland, Connecticut, South Dakota, Salt Lake City, and Guatemala, and we are hoping to expand that network of outreach as we gain more support.
Last month was the 2015 Changemakers Night hosted in partnership by Social Venture Partners and Impact Entrepreneurs at Portland State University. I had the unbelievable honor of playing a role in the event as the emcee, and was given the opportunity to tell my story as a young and aspiring changemaker, as well as to introduce three inspiring new role models of mine. Throughout the event, through listening to the three keynote speakers talk, and hearing about the work of many of the attendees, I learned three unforgettable lessons that are key to being a changemaker:
1) Build your work around your purpose: The people at Changemakers Night were not just savvy in their fields of work, but were passionate about their personal missions. Being a changemaker takes a lot of work and a lot of hours advocating, connecting, and implementing programs, and one cannot accomplish that to their greatest extent without putting relentless energy toward reaching their goal. Thus, identifying that purpose is key to ensuring that you have the determination and authenticity to make your mark. I believe that this concept was embodied by one of the featured speakers, Jeremy Hockenstein, who weaved together his passion for business, international nonprofit work, and technology to create Digital Divide Data. Digital Divide Data is pioneering an “impact sourcing” model to provide education, professional development, and technology-related jobs for young people in underserved communities around the world.
2) Embrace what sets you apart: Everyone brings a unique perspective composed of our backgrounds, experiences, skills, and passions. As we embrace our differences, we bring new and important insights to address complex and entrenched social problems. For me, an experience that may be classified as “different,” but also gives me my driving force to lead Camions of Care, is my family’s own experience with not being able to live in our apartment and having to transition into living under the legal label of “homelessness” for a period of time. I was inspired at Changemakers Night by Jane Stevens, a journalist and researcher who leveraged her unique set of skills and opportunities to begin shifting social perspectives and address the effects of toxic stress and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) with her organizations Aces Connection and Aces Too High.
3) Consider connections: It was at Changemakers Night that I reached a deeper understanding on the importance of connections. My epiphany on this was spurred by Kazi Huque’s speech. As the CEO of Grameen Intel Social Business, he leads a partnership between Grameen Bank and Intel Corporation spreading IT services to a whole new market on a global scale. As a leader, empowering others is central to growing a movement, and to gain inspiration from others is forever a possibility. Connections not only enable your work to spread beyond your own fingertips, but they also help generate a cohesive community that strives for a happier world.
The 2015 Changemakers Night was an unforgettable experience. It brought inspiration and introductions to new perspectives that will undoubtedly help each of us as we embark on our own paths to social impact.
See more photos from Changemakers Night here
Behind every social innovation there’s a story. Sometimes they reveal a clear and unwavering path and others talk about a winding, shifting, evolving idea. On May 19, Impact Entrepreneurs and Social Venture Partners bring these these stories to the stage to inspire and encourage everyone to find pathways to creating positive social and environmental impact. We invite you to join us for Changemakers Night.
Jeremy Hockenstein was on a direct professional trajectory, checking all the boxes from Harvard to McKinsey and Co. as a management consultant when, on vacation in Cambodia, he was struck by the gap between what he saw as young people’s tech skills and their employment prospects. Now he leads an international enterprise focused on training, employing, and supporting the education of thousands of young people in Cambodia and Laos.
Dr. Jane Stevens had been a newspaper and magazine journalist, focusing on health, science and technology for 30 years when she began digging into a massive body of evidence about the consequences of Adverse Childhood Experiences. She now leads two news-based organizations focused on changing systems to prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences, and to stop traumatizing already traumatized people.
Kazi Huque was managing and negotiating venture capital deals as a finance controller with Intel Corporation and undertaking a project to determine consumption of computing power around the world. Realizing that only 20% of the global population was being reached by computing technology, he saw an opportunity. Now Huque leads Grameen-Intel, developing a growing portfolio of software products for healthcare and agriculture, targeting micro-entrepreneurs who serve their local communities in emerging nations.
Impact Entrepreneurs and Social Venture Partners invite you to explore social innovation through the lens of these three speakers. Through their stories, a set of musical performances, and the vibrance that just happens when Portland’s social change community gets together, we hope you will be inspired to discover paths to social impact.
The event will take place in the recently renovated Revolution Hall in the historic Washington High School in SE Portland on the evening of May 19. Attendees will explore the space and meet one another over light food, local microbrews and Oregon wine from 5 – 6 p.m., then will gather in the auditorium for a set of performances, presentations, and discussions. The program will close at 7:30.
Social Venture Partners and PSU Impact Entrepreneurs present:
Tuesday, May 19
Reception 5-6pm, Interactive presentations and discussion 6-7:30pm
Revolution Hall, Washington High School, 1300 SE Stark, Portland
Tickets: $50 for general admission, $15 for students
Register here: http://bit.ly/1xkn7cs
Contact email@example.com with questions
In 2012, PSU was selected as an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, a designation honoring our university’s excellence in social innovation education and commitment to making higher education a world-changing experience.
Ashoka U is a highly respected international non-profit organization which believes that: “In a world that is changing faster and faster, students need interdisciplinary, entrepreneurial, and solutions-oriented skills to succeed. Ashoka believes the way colleges and universities can stay relevant is to embed Changemaker skills such as empathy, teamwork, leadership and changemaking into their culture and across their curriculum.” As we recently reported, research shows that employers agree.
Our world in the 21st century requires us, as changemakers, to improve lives and strengthen our planet in a period where the pace of change itself has changed. We can’t keep up – let alone lead – by simply learning, doing, and repeating. In the words of Ashoka’s founder, Bill Drayton, “It’s the change game, not the repetition game. If you don’t understand that, you can’t lead.”
Last week, the three authors of this post were among the 700 attendees at Ashoka U’s annual convening, the Exchange. We celebrated the now 30 Changemaker Campuses, including public universities and private colleges all over the world who are building a global “Everyone a Changemaker” movement.
Starting with one word to express our experiences, these are our reflections.
Cindy Cooper, Director, Impact Entrepreneurs, School of Business Administration*
The Exchange was reinforcing. It was reinforcing to coalesce with a committed group of dedicated educators and innovators who are in solidarity about the promise of higher education to build changemakers for a better world.
PSU’s mantra is “Let Knowledge Serve the City.” Our expression of this ethos at PSU’s Impact Entrepreneurs is to contribute to creating the conditions that enable people to make choices for good.
These lofty ideals fuel us as inspiring visions of the future should. But the climb is real work, and the air can get thin. We face challenges every day to grow and improve our programs, deliver on goals and measure our impact. We constantly ask ourselves: How do we support more staff, faculty and students in being changemakers? How do we generate more strategic and effective collaborations across campus and with a global community of partners? How do we equip more impact-driven innovators with the resources they need to succeed? How do we know we are generating more happiness and less suffering?
Being among hundreds of individuals candidly sharing their efforts to get the values and skills of changemaking to reach as many people as possible helps us develop better approaches and validates our progress so far. It says we are on the right track, but don’t stop, keep going, aim higher. Reinforcement makes us stronger, more creative and more resilient. It is the meditative oxygen we need to reach our promises to ourselves and each other.
The 2015 Ashoka U Exchange and the chance to connect with a vast network of inspiring leaders in higher education provided a deep breath of reinforcement: a solid foundation of best practices and the esprit de corps to press on.
Abby Chroman, Project Manager, Impact Entrepreneurs, School of Business Administration
Advancing social innovation in higher ed. doesn’t mean leaving behind expertise in policy, or engineering, design, medicine, journalism, or law. It means creating environments where disciplines are integrally connected for real world application. The 2015 Ashoka U Exchange demonstrated intersections among what I see as some of the most important skills, schools, movements, and ideas in the world today.
Packed into a classroom in the classic-looking University Of Maryland campus on the last day of the Exchange, I listened in on a discussion about public policy and social entrepreneurship, particularly in the context of higher education. The panelists were brilliant. They explored the historic context for the existing relationship between academia, social innovation, and public policy, and with active engagement from the audience, closed with practical ways to grow the impact of that intersection.
In another session authors and NYT columnists David Bornstein and Tina Rosenberg along with NYU professor Robert Lyon and instructor Sri Naomi Bishop facilitated a conversation about the power of solutions narratives both as journalistic practice, and as content for curriculum. The discussion brought forth everything from existing structures for publication in news and journals to ways instructors can find relevant tailored materials for lessons, and the tension and importance of in-depth reporting in a fast changing world.
As a Millennial working in social entrepreneurship and higher ed., I’m sensitive to the question about what role higher ed. has if we can’t predict the future. From where I stood in snowy Washington, DC last week, something came into focus for me. The particular role of higher ed. might be changing but it’s not becoming less important. Colleges and universities have the ability to strengthen and empower individuals in deep and complex disciplines to shift and tip systems that span sectors, borders, and schools of thought. What other institution can do that? The more we enforce the intersections of disciplines for real world solutions, the more I want to be a part of this.
Angela Merrill, Changemaker Campus Liaison, Impact Entrepreneurs, School of Business Administration & Institute for Sustainable Solutions*
Much how the fibers of an artist’s canvas provide a surface from which to paint, the interwoven and reinforced fibers of the community at The Ashoka U Exchange provide students a surface from which to create a masterpiece of the world.
A favorite pastime of mine has always been to draw unguided, yet inspired, doodles on the pages of my sketchbooks. Every line, dot and abstract figure looks different to create a whole and impacting image. The conference format too creates an environment to explore various topics to compose a “big picture.” There were personal development sessions and workshops on systems thinking or “the science of change,” insights on international development as well as the role of social entrepreneurship in social justice.
However, what sparkled were connections with student leaders from various universities. To me, it created a diverse gallery of the initiatives that are thriving with the support of the Ashoka U canvas. A friend from Brown spoke of “Pop-Up Classes” in changemaking, while students from the University of San Diego spoke of their sunny, music-filled social impact career fair while Fordham detailed a program that equips students with consulting skills to gain credit and work experience.
We, as Portlanders, are organically drawn to lead social change, and the canvas surface has been prepped. My question for the students, faculty and staff at Portland State is this:
How do we want our changemaker masterpiece to look?
*A special thank you to reTHINK: PSU and the Institute for Sustainable Solutions for generously supporting our participation in the Ashoka U Exchange.
The Impact Entrepreneurs Social Innovation Incubator has emerged from hiatus! After taking a year off while we created our online certificate in the Business of Social Innovation, we are thrilled to be back.
We are excited to be working closely over the next year with four amazing new members. Check them out:
Construct Foundation is building a portfolio of partners and mutually reinforcing education initiatives to identify and support new models for teaching and learning, prioritizing K-12 students in Portland Metro’s underserved communities.
Gender Gap Year is closing the gaps in women’s representation, leadership, power and pay through an innovative gap year program in Portland Oregon. Through badging, boldness, action, and self exploration, the year long program empowers women between 18 and 22 to live authentic, connected, and strategic lives of equity.
Lanyi Fan incubates locally-generated solutions and facilitates international relationships to address the high unemployment and environmental problems encroaching on existing livelihoods in West Africa.
The Pathways to Prosperity Initiative, an intrapreneurial program of nonprofit Self Enhancement Inc. (SEI), provides at-risk urban youth and their families in the Portland area “with the knowledge, skills and support needed to leverage economic opportunities and increase financial capability.”
We’ve set off to attend the annual Ashoka U Exchange. The event has grown each year and now includes over 650 university representatives and students who will convene in Washington D.C. to discuss and learn about how to further social innovation in higher education. The Exchange includes sessions such as “bringing social solutions narratives into the classroom” and “systems thinking for leading changemakers.”
Impact Entrepreneurs’ Director Cindy Cooper will be a featured panelist in Online Learning: Inspiring Stories from the Front Lines, an interactive conversation about triumphs and failures of booming online learning platforms. As a speaker on the panel, Cindy Cooper will share her experience developing a rigorous online certificate in social entrepreneurship supported by the reTHINK: PSU Provost’s Challenge.
Abby Chroman, Project Manager with Impact Entrepreneurs, will moderate Universities as Catalysts for Social Innovation, a presentation featuring two of the 2015 Cordes Innovation award winners that explores how universities leverage existing resources to partner with communities and spark social innovation.
Angela Merrill, PSU’s Changemaker Campus Liaison, is heading to the Exchange to research best practices for catalyzing connections and student engagement across campus.
Follow @PSUimpact and #Exchange2015 for our real time updates on the speakers, field visits and everything social innovation this weekend and look for another IE blog on Exchange highlights early March.
This post was contributed by Angela Merrill, Undergraduate at Portland State University’s Urban Honors College & Changemaker Campus Liaison
“Wherever we are in the world, we can commit ourselves to change.”
– Tichelle Sorenson, Director of the Portland State MBA
Since learning the term ‘social entrepreneurship,’ as a senior in high school, I have been presented with a variety of definitions for it. From Mohammed Yunus at the Grameen Bank, who was called a social entrepreneur for his work building the microfinance industry, to CanCity in Brazil, which empowers trash collectors to create furniture from melted-down cans, new ventures redefine the field every day.
Now, as the new student intern with PSU’s Impact Entrepreneurs, I’m not just out to define social entrepreneurship with a boundary for where it starts and stops because realistically, not everyone wants or needs to become a social entrepreneur. Finding an authentic personal journey to make change is still an important step towards creating more happiness (and less suffering) in our world.
Impact Entrepreneurs and the PSU Alumni Association share my conviction. Earlier this month they invited three changemakers to present at a lively event at Bridgeport Brewery. They each talked about finding their unique path to creating positive social impact throughout their lives and careers. Here my takeaways from their stories.
“Know what’s out there, contact an expert and help good people do good things.”
Currently a Research Associate at the Center for Public Interest Design (CPID) at PSU’s School of Architecture, Todd started off studying philosophy as an undergrad and became involved in various NGOs at rape and refugee call centers. Increasingly, he found himself needing to solve problems of design and, after watching a PBS documentary on Public Interest Design, decided to become an architect to work with (and not for) communities of underserved populations. Not only did Brad Pitt narrate the documentary, but it also featured CPID’s own director Sergio Palleroni – a leader in the field of Public Interest Design.
“Subscribe to be a lifelong learner and connect with those experts you might not normally connect with. Be curious. Agility is the strongest muscle, so being adaptable and having transferrable skills will help you be ready to tell your story.”
A self-proclaimed storyteller, Rhian is a serial “intrapreneur” who leads Corporate Citizenship at Waggener Edstrom Worldwide – one of the largest public relations firms in the world. She enables change by aligning the overall strategy of her clients and employees to create purpose and profit within the corporate giant.
At around 5pm each day, an alarm goes off on Rhian’s phone that says “Was today worth it?” She says the day she answers no to the question above, it’s the day to quit.
In the same way she aligns other business strategies with purpose, she too has learned that aligning herself with her company and personally defining impact is a key step in the journey.
“Have the audacity to step out of a predetermined role. If you have a crazy idea, do it.”
The skills software engineers employ are in high demand across sectors, and Eric’s story is no different. Although a first job working for a stock analysis firm paid him well monetarily, something didn’t feel quite right. After being fired from this job, he listened closely to his mind/body connection to discover where his passion was leading him – to make things and share them with people. Now a technologist with Idealist.org, he is able to do this by creating a platform that directly facilitates online users to find their own pathway to changemaking. He says, “At Idealist, we don’t necessarily have the skills to save the whales. But if you want to save the whales, we want to help you find other people who want to save the whales and can help you do it.”
It doesn’t matter to me that Eric, Todd, and Rhian didn’t introduce themselves as social entrepreneurs. They have found creative and pragmatic ways to solve the problems they see in their lives and they have crafted careers to address those issues. They are changemakers who inspired the audience to find their own pathways to changemaking.