Posts filed under ‘Opportunities for social innovators’
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.
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.
“A Path Appears,” the latest book by Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, takes the reader on a journey starting with the story of a nine year-old girl who convinced people to donate money to provide clean drinking water for individuals around the world and ending with the tale of two college students that turned a homework assignment into an organization that delivers healthy school lunches to low-income schools in America. Through these captivating examples, this book makes the case that you do not have to be rich or business savvy to help make a change, and that problems exist closer to home than you might think.
A primary message in “A Path Appears” is that even small contributions can create a real impact in social issues across our nation and around the world. What may seem like a drop in the bucket can change someone’s life for the better. So often we find ourselves not contributing because we feel we don’t have enough to offer. This book teaches us that with a small amount of research and care you can make a change no matter how much money, time or experience you have.
Kristof and WuDunn also use this opportunity to challenge the common notion that issues like malnutrition, extreme violence, and lack of education only affect people in developing nations. The authors show us a different reality. They paint a picture in one story of Chicago’s west side, where three murders a day is the norm. “How could this happen in a developed country, in a wealthy city?” We ask. “And how can we stop it?” The powerful solution that Kristof and WuDunn illustrate here didn’t start with economic development or criminal justice, but with an open mind. Dr. Gary Slutkin, a medical doctor born a raised in Chicago, had an extensive background in infectious diseases. He worked around the world on illnesses from tuberculosis to HIV with a special focus on eradicating transmission. When Slutkin began looking at Chicago’s violence as an infectious, transmittable disease, he started to find ways to treat the problem as such. He looked at the time and place where violence would begin to escalate, or to move from one family to another, and that’s where he started stopping it. This is just one of the many stories that demonstrate that you don’t have to look across the world to find a problem and solve it. Sometimes you just have to look around you.
“A Path Appears” is full of powerful moments capable of motivating even the most skeptical person into wanting to make a change. Every night after reading the stories in this book I excitedly told my wife about things people across the world were doing to make a change. This book will drive you to take action and that step, even a small “drop in the bucket,” might just change someone’s life.
You can order a copy of “A Path Appears” here.
Social entrepreneurship has come on strong in the education space with an ever-growing number of institutions teaching entrepreneurial skills with a lens on social issues. From the midst of a fast-changing field, Impact Entrepreneurs at Portland State University paused to consider the social entrepreneurship education trends of tomorrow.
Business students will choose a focus on intrapreneurship
Social intrapreneurs use entrepreneurial practices inside existing organizations and institutions. Because their innovations ultimately yield bigger impact for their employers, intrapreneurs are in high demand. In the last few years, we have seen the rise of the social intrapreneur as one of the most prized employees. In the next five years, educators will include intrapreneurship in social entrepreneurship curriculum, organizations and institutions will fund employees’ pursuit of intrapreneurship education, and social ventures will thrive with intrapreneurs running programs and operations with new ideas and creative leadership. Join The League of Intrapreneurs here.
Boomers will join the ranks of social innovation students
The number of Americans age 55 and older will double in the next 25 years, and they’re not ready to quit. They will have a lifetime of experience and want to work on something they care about. It’s a huge opportunity. In many cases these encore professionals will seek training and education for their new stage of life and work. They will enroll in social entrepreneurship programs alongside younger generations to build skills and pathways to work with social purpose organizations and companies. Colleges and universities will craft experiences and curriculum for these new cross-generational audiences. Discover research, examples, and opportunities from the encore movement at Encore.org.
The world will see developing countries as sources of social innovation
The old narrative says that when wealthier nations invest in leadership and R&D, the solutions they invent benefit the rest of the world. But the developing world is a rich environment for social innovation where entrepreneurial leaders, often focused on their own markets, are effectively addressing pressing social problems daily. Now companies, countries, and organizations spot ideas from the developing world that could be successfully utilized in other contexts. Education institutions will follow this lead, guiding students to search for solutions from the developing world and practice collaborating with local innovators to grow their solutions for broad, international social benefit. Find a great example in this story about Kenya’s leadership in mobile money.
Programs and departments will collaborate across campus
The days are gone when the majority of students leave their university with one skill that they bring to their one job where they work forever. Now students demand a broad spectrum of experiences to support their career, which increasingly include a variety of roles. Social innovation and social entrepreneurship programs in particular will adapt by collaborating across campus, leveraging cross-disciplinary infrastructure, and building pathways for students to get the depth and breadth of experiences that will help them succeed throughout their lives as changemakers. Impact Entrepreneurs at Portland State University is collaborating with departments across campus to deliver the Certificate in The Business of Social Innovation.
Employers across sectors will look for changemakers
The most in-demand skills from employers match the goals of social entrepreneurship educators. Examples include leadership, creativity, empathy, hands-on training, problem solving, judgement and decision-making, and perceptiveness. As the overlaps between in-demand job skills and social innovation skills become more obvious, employers will partner with education institutions to fund programs that systematically benefit their workforce, their institutions and ultimately their impact. We’ve collected information here illustrating how the most in-demand job skills among employers today match social entrepreneurship curriculum.
This post was contributed by guest writer Gina Condon, President and Founder of Construct Foundation.
In 2013 I was in the process of launching the Construct Foundation. I was looking for the right professional development opportunity to help me form the building blocks of a new kind of education foundation. I researched everything from MBA programs with a social mission to weekend workshops for non-profit leaders. Throughout my search I kept returning to Portland State University’s Business of Social Innovation, a new online certificate delivered by Impact Entrepreneurs in the School of Business Administration. The new program prepares changemakers to tackle the world’s most challenging social and environmental problems.
An Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, PSU is recognized for their leadership in social innovation education and the PSU School of Business is ranked among the top 15 MBA programs by Aspen Institute Center for Business Education. The social innovation certificate is open to professionals as well as graduate and undergraduate students, creating a unique intergenerational community, and the faculty is made up of accomplished practitioners.
I’m honored this fall to join an inspiring group of peers in the first cohort to finish The Business of Social Innovation certificate. Among the many highlights of the yearlong program, we were treated to visits or webinars by Tim Clark of Business Model You; Kristi Yuthas, coauthor of Measuring and Improving Social Impacts; and designers from IDEO.org.
Now, with the courses all complete, we are on to the important work of identifying, designing, and supporting sustainable solutions to real-world problems. My work will be in the field of education. The team at Construct recently partnered with the founders of Design Week Portland and piloted the expansion of their education track as a way to celebrate the nexus between design, innovation, and K-12 education.
Next we plan to introduce the concept of an industry supported City-Wide Design Challenge for students throughout Portland metro region. This idea has grown from The Construct Foundation’s first initiative with Project Breaker. I was able to develop the idea throughout the Business of Social Innovation coursework. Here’s a micro-documentary about the project we ran last May. Now similar projects are being developed for middle schools and high schools around the city.
Congratulations to Impact Entrepreneurs for launching a powerful new course.
Portland State University’s Impact Entrepreneurs recently completed the pilot year of the new Business of Social Innovation Certificate, a professional and academic certificate delivered from within the School of Business.
The program’s goal, audacious from the start, was to greatly enhance an individual’s likelihood of transforming world-changing ideas into reality, whether working within an established organization or launching their own.
Aside from the ambitious mission, even getting the program up and running seemed like it would require some magic. The Impact Entrepreneurs team had only a few months to run design sessions for the program; tackle online learning tools; recruit instructors; record lectures; attract and register students; and move through the local, state, and regional accreditation processes.
Each term of the first year of the certificate was as much a challenge for the team delivering the content as it was for the cohort executing the coursework. Everyone involved was working hard, from the instructors to the diverse cohort of undergraduate and graduate students, nonprofit executives and for-profit business managers. Students completed three intensive online courses, attended site visits with twelve local social enterprises, and a developed a full business plan. What was the result of this collective marathon? Outstanding emerging ideas to address social problems and invaluable feedback based in experience to drive the program into year two.
The program participants developed:
Construct Foundation’s new Citywide Design Challenge for students, to be announced during Design Week Portland.
A cause marketing campaign to enable local breweries to support the Oregon Food Bank through competitions and seasonal beers.
New ways for NGO Lanyi Fan‘s programs to support sustainable entrepreneurship in West Africa.
… and more.
What they thought:
The Social Innovation Certificate program was an inspiring, positively challenging, practical experience that provided tools, insights and resources to convert ideas to sustainable actions that drive change. It supported my professional and personal goals in a meaningful, invaluable way, and facilitated a stronger network of passionate individuals of diverse backgrounds, committed to addressing systemic issues and opportunities in our community. - Rhian Rotz, Director of Corporate Citizenship, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, Portland
The program not only taught me how to start a business with a social mission, it also changed my ideology about the business world and gave me direction for after graduation. It was hard work but the benefits that I gained from the program are countless. I am so happy to have been a part of this experience and consider it an important milestone in my education as well as my personal life. - Patrick Ditty, Heavy Equipment Technician at Peterson Machinery, Portland
The program has been an amazing experience for me next to my doctoral studies in education at PSU. The classes, online discussions and assignments have provided me different skills I can use as I think and develop ideas as an entrepreneur. The framework in which the content is developed is flexible and inclusive. You will experience, in a close-to-the-real setting, how to develop your idea step by step with excellent feedback from your peers and instructors. I totally recommend taking this program. - Paulina Gutierrez Zepeda, Assistant Professor at Universidad Catolica del Norte, Chile
Enjoy more photos from the 2014 certificate experience here.
Watch local innovators pitch the region’s most exciting new social ventures and vote for a winner to receive $1500 cash at the Elevating Impact Summit on June 20.
The Elevating Impact Summit, put on by Portland State University’s Impact Entrepreneurs, is an annual one-day event in downtown Portland celebrating entrepreneurship and innovation for social impact.
On Friday, June 20, six finalists, each selected for their innovative and entrepreneurial approach to addressing a social or environmental problem, will have three minutes to pitch their idea to more than 350 audience members. Following each pitch, a panel of expert investors and entrepreneurs will discuss the finalist’s for-profit, nonprofit, or hybrid venture, their vision, and their plans.
When the real-time audience vote is in, Immix Law Group will award $1500 cash and $1000 of in-kind legal support to the finalist with the most votes. The runner up will also receive $1000 of in-kind legal support.
The 2014 finalists are…
• Ila Asplund, Half Sky Journeys
Half Sky Journeys creates global trips with a purpose: to boost funding and awareness for girl- and women-empowering organizations. Half Sky Journeys’ life-changing journeys give travelers an opportunity to improve the lives of others and transform their own in the process. The journeys help high-level philanthropists engage personally with innovative women leaders (in education, health, technology) and discover firsthand how investing in a girl is the starting point for changing the world.
• Ryan Carson, Treehouse Island, Inc.
Treehouse provides affordable, accessible tech education for high-paying jobs in a digital economy. Many schools lack tech teachers and teachers cannot keep pace with rapidly evolving technology. Treehouse’s online interactive tutorials teach job-ready skills in web design, programming and app design without massive debt. Treehouse has had success in high poverty and rural areas using the program to retrain workers. With your support, Treehouse aims to reach people everywhere to empower them to economic self-sufficiency and inspire innovators.
• Orion Falvey, Orchid Health
Over the past decade, health insurance costs have risen over 100%. While costs go up, care quality has decreased because insurance companies don’t pay providers sustainable rates. Orchid Health’s solution removes health insurance from primary care by having patients pay a monthly fee of around $50. This model, along with locating in Medically Underserved Areas, which allows Orchid to profitably serve those on Medicaid and Medicare, makes Orchid unique and ready to grow quickly.
• Aaron Killgore, Live Forest Farms
Live Forest Farms is a food import company that partners with projects that drive sustainable agriculture and conservation in critical parts of the world. Live Forest Farms’ prototype is in East Bali Indonesia, where they have created a nonprofit initiative, East Bali Watershed Initiative, and partnered with a cashew factory, to import single origin, ethically sourced cashews to Portland, Oregon.
• Katrina Scotto di Carlo, Supportland
Small, local businesses tend to be isolated, leading 40% to go out of business in the first three years. By increasing the exchanges in which small businesses engage, Supportland disables this isolation. Besides the quantity, we make exchanges simpler and more rewarding with business-to-business, business-to-consumer, and even with other players historically unable to build at-scale exchanges with independent businesses. All these exchanges deepen relationships resulting in stronger economic activity for small, local businesses.
• Amy Doering Smith, Safi Water Works
Safi means ‘clean’ or ‘pure’ in Swahili. Safi Water Works is a social purpose enterprise addressing two complex global issues: providing safe, clean drinking water and creating income-generating opportunities for some of the world’s poorest. Safi manufactures and distributes products that use off-the-grid/human sources to power an ultraviolet disinfecting process that results in safe drinking water. Products are designed to be economical and effective and appropriate for urban communities throughout the developing world.
Panelists joining the Pitch Fest to provide strategic questions and feedback to each finalist include:
• Carolynn Duncan (moderator), Founder and General Partner of NW Social Venture Fund and Founder and CEO of TenX
• Melissa Freeman, Oregon Community Foundation
• Molly Lindquist, Founder & CEO of Consano
• Tom Sperry, Managing Director of Rogue Venture Partners