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Higher Ed Bridges the Socent Startup Gap
After a few years of insisting that higher ed make the transition, it looks like they’re beginning to see the value in fusing entrepreneurship with social change and integrating it at a cultural level within their institutions at-large.
I embarked on this particular journey near the end of 2014. It was Saturday, October 11th, 2014 to be exact.
Researching full-time for six months, and I finally began to reach the bottom of the rabbit hole. I was beginning to have clarity on my vision. Before I knew it, my vision was crystalized. I knew how important it was to pinpoint the right problem to solve before attempting to build solutions so I was happy to invest those six months into a research project.
It’s an ecosystem problem. These global challenges we face and our inability to collaborate when it matters. All of this friction…it’s an ecosystem issue.
I knew what had to be done. Well, I knew what I was going to have to do in order to continue this vision quest. I knew it was going to take a few years. Just to change the conversation of the nation would take a few years. I knew if I started working on this I wasn’t going to see immediate results or returns on my investment.
We went through the gamut these last few years, but mobilizing the right community members and collaborating to overcome great challenges has been our specialty.
Vijay Chakravarthy, Chapter President of the Industrial Designer Society of America
I’m psyched to see more of the nation’s institutions of higher ed begin to understand that students should be building powerful organizations during their time in college, rather than waiting to be unprepared for the workforce that no longer exists.
Job hunting is over. Today, we create jobs.
Institutions that adapt to this societal need will survive and as we learned from Clayton Christiansen, the organizations who fail to innovate themselves to meet the demands will eventually be overtaken by the emerging alternatives.
Unreasonable Impact is a new initiative that has taken this problem by the horns as they align with Barclays this November for a job creation event. They may bring me in to document the event, but I am not sure just yet. Would be an incredible film if they had me do it.
Over the last week, MIT began rolling out a few accelerator programs within the different departments of the university. I have included The Engine in the digest links and DesignX, but there they are again just incase. It’s about time they heard the calling!
If you run an institution of higher learning and you’re not growing social entrepreneurs then you are wasting not only your time, but your students as well. Close up shop, lock the doors, stop invoicing students to pay you for the lemon of an education you’re trying to sell them.
Here, I will show you how simple it can be.
I designed the postsecondary education program that has become a model of replication across the country. From directors and deans at Rutgers University to the federal government in Washington D.C. and all the way over seas when the Global Impact Investor’s Network sent an advisor to provide me with the support I needed to cultivate the social enterprise ecosystem in Princeton (GIIN was the first major socent organization to approach me last year, and I was such a noobie I barely knew who I was talking to at the time!). My framework is uniquely based on the life events I experienced from 2010-2012 – it’s truely odd how the sequence of events took place, but you can read more about it here.
I was especially surprised to receive an email from the federal government recently. It was in response to the Startup Digest I sent out a few weeks ago. In the email, he said one sentence, “We need you, and you need us.”
A few phone calls later and then a sit down at WeWork DC led to an exciting project on the verge or emerging. It was nice to hear from them. They said they have run a number of similar programs, but they have never seen the model I designed and implement through Action Horizon Institute. They said they loved it, and they wanted me to be the person who would lead this charge for them at the forefront of the nation. To be the voice for this new program and project to help people work together and make an impact in their local communities. Who knows how it will turn out. I never thought of myself as being that important or instrumental in something of such magnitude. It helps to know that I am. The more I think of what I have accomplished along with the courageous communities I have been immersed in, the more I think to myself, “Wait a minute. Hell yea I deserve to be that person. I absolutely do, and I would assume such a responsibility with the greatest honor for you and this great nation.”
Collective Impact Initiative & Hyperlocal Ecosystem
I want to note a particularly impressive collective impact initiative. I stumbled across this town randomly about a year ago.
It’s jaw dropping how incredibly in sync they have become as a community. This is presently the only town I am aware of that has figured out a way to function as a collective culture and solve problems cooperatively – check them out when you have a moment. Taylor’s Townsquare.
Their ecosystem is incredible.
Each time I look at any of their branding or literature it makes me want to be apart of whatever it is they have going on.
Advice for higher ed institutions lagging
Two years ago, I knew how important it was going to be to install a curriculum within higher ed that grew social entrepreneurs. Nobody in higher ed would listen so I went ahead and invented the program on my own. After bringing four cohorts of undergraduates through the program it began to catch the attention of nearly eight departments within my university. Before long, I was hired nearly 10 department directors, vice presidents and deans to bring what I had into their silo of the institution.
You can see the first sketch of my Gantt Chart…
f the exact service design I created based on my unique life experience installed into the university and is a requirement for undergraduates within certain departments to complete in order to graduate. The sketch in the above picture quickly became this…
If you’re ready to make major changes in your university or organization feel free to reach out to me. I often fill the role of innovation partner or omnichannel learning experience designer.
This came easy for me perhaps because of the logic I was able to boil it down to:
If we wanted to change the type of businesses that we see in the world, then we must change the ecosystem of services and support that grow those businesses.
There were no other organizations or movements in the country that cultivated “social enterprise ecosystems”. Except, of course, the Social Enterprise Greenhouse in Rhode Island. Here is a link to their social enterprise ecosystem map.
With their pipeline hooked into universities like Brown, they’re in an incredibly powerful position to make continuous, incremental, and meaningful impact with each social entrepreneur they grow.
This organization knows what they are doing, and I’m not referring to group of wonks who write essays to themselves on the trendy Social Innovation Review. SEG is the real deal comprised of individuals who are involved on the ground floor, feet on the pavement, and at the grassroots level. I’m curious as to how many of you have heard of the organization. Unless you’re from the Rhode Island area you likely wouldn’t have heard of them. That’s because they are focused on their own backyard.
Seems like we spend a lot of time fixing other people’s problems, and it creates the perception in our minds that our lives, or our backyards, are perfectly fine. The thing is, we can only be responsible for own lives. You can only do you.
I want to include one more shout out for SEG because they have an open application link on their website for their accelerator program. The links in the Social Enterprizer Startup Digest this week has a URL to SEG’s university initiative because we had a higher ed theme. Here is the link to the application for the Social Enterprise Greenhouse Accelerator.