Tag Archives: social innovation

so·cial in·no·va·tion, n. (part 4)

“Social innovation is not a side project that is separate from the rest of your life; it is a way of thinking about the world that values human rights, and is expressed through actions that solve social problems.”

In the final posts of our blog series525551_4032740177059_1856110285_n on social innovation, we asked two students to examine the definition of social innovation on our website. Here Ben Chesler ’15, co-founder of the Food Recovery Network, shares what social innovation means to him.

This week, Brown hosts the Ashoka U Exchange, an annual convening of 650 students, university leaders, faculty, and entrepreneurs from over 150 institutions and 40 countries that explores social innovation in higher education. Learn more.

“Social innovation is the pursuit of transformative, innovative, sustainable solutions to the world’s problems.”  

Glad I got that out of the way. While it’s a good definition, it doesn’t fully explain what social innovation means to me.   To do that, I need to explain how my experiences have been intertwined with social innovation, and how the concept has impacted my life and my work.  From the moment I heard of the term “Social Innovation” I was obsessed with joining the “club” of social innovators, which in my mind was people who spoke at conferences, got awards, and talked on CNN about the amazing work they were doing.  I soon got my opportunity.

Warning, shameless plug ahead:  During my freshman year at Brown, I co-founded the Food Recovery Network, which works with students on college campuses to recover food from their dining halls and donate it to people in need.  The organization grew quickly, expanding to 50 colleges within two years, and we were receiving recognition for our work, from a Starr Fellowship to large foundation grants to interviews with news stations (we still never got the coveted CNN, but MSNBC wasn’t too far from it).  I was riding high at that point; I had done it.  I had created transformative, innovative, sustainable change, and therefore, in my mind, I was a Social Innovator.  I think I half-expected a club membership card to some in the mail, with the title “Ben Chesler – Social Innovator for Life”.  After a year of hard work, I handed over the operations of FRN to a team of paid staff, and returned to my “normal” life of hiking, theatre, and college classes, with the confidence of someone who had accomplished his goals in life.

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so·cial in·no·va·tion, n. (part 3)

“In the end, the definition of social innovation I’ve encountered at SII is one that’s less driven by empty shouts of “rah-rah-save-the-world” and fueled more by empathy, systems thinking, honest dialogue, and constant critique.”

1390705_667763606597968_2118109142_nIn the final posts of our blog series on social innovation, we asked two students to examine the definition of social innovation on our website. Here Rexy Josh Dorado, co-founder of the Kaya Collaborative, shares what social innovation means to him.

This week, Brown hosts the Ashoka U Exchange, an annual convening of 650 students, university leaders, faculty, and entrepreneurs from over 150 institutions and 40 countries that explores social innovation in higher education. Learn more.

“Social innovation is the pursuit of innovative, transformative, and sustainable solutions to social problems.”

This definition has a layer of initial simplicity to it.  As a student of development who’s justly wary of good intentions – of the complications and hidden oppressions that tend to follow them – I remember being as skeptical as I was excited to dive in.  As always, the promise of helping build a better world was tempered by the danger of people exercising the privilege of service without reflection or accountability.

I’m a senior now, a former staffer at SII, and a leader of my own initiative to tie the Filipino diaspora to social innovation in the Philippines. Along the way, I’ve heard the terms “social innovation” and “social entrepreneurship” tagged on to so many different philosophies, movements, principles, each of varying success. Is it business for social good?  Is it about innovative revenue streams?  Is it about starting things for the sake of social good?

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so·cial in·no·va·tion, n. (part 2)

“Students who come through our office doors are passionate about social change.”

untitled_140110_1007In a three-part blog series, we ask members of the Brown community to answer the question: “What does social innovation mean to you?” The Director and Assistant Director of the Social Innovation Initiative, Alan Harlam and Lizzie Pollock, provide our second definition below.

Next week, Brown will host the Ashoka U Exchange, which will convene 650 students, university leaders, faculty, and entrepreneurs from over 150 institutions and 20 countries together to explore social innovation in higher education. Learn more.

On a regular basis, each of us will find ourselves stopping in the middle of a busy day and thinking, “Wow. I have the best job in the world.” This little ego boost is in part due to our amazing colleagues at the Swearer Center and impressive credentials as employees of one of the finest higher education institutions in the world; but most of it is because of the inspiration we derive from our interactions with Brown’s students, faculty, and alumni.

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so·cial in·no·va·tion, n.

“The bottom line: social innovation is made possible when we advance our mission through the ideals of imagination, impact, and collaboration that define Brown.”

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In a three-part blog series, we ask members of the Brown community to answer the question: “What does social innovation mean to you?” President Christina Paxson kicks off the series with her recipe for social innovation.

Later this month, Brown will host the Ashoka U Exchange, which will convene 650 students, university leaders, faculty, and entrepreneurs from over 150 institutions and 20 countries together to explore social innovation in higher education. The theme of this year’s conference is “The New Scholar” – a way to explore both the possibilities for new knowledge creation as well as the collective identity of students, faculty, and practitioners who will apply this knowledge to address global challenges. Learn more.

People often use the term social entrepreneur or social innovator to describe an individual with a breakthrough idea for social change. But what does it mean for the university itself to be a social innovator?

Here at Brown I believe we have the three key ingredients of a social innovator: imagination, a passion for making a difference in the world, and a culture of collaboration.

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