higher ed

Despite significant challenges, such as rising tuition and high dropout rates, higher education institutions must evolve and “re-engineer their DNA” to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

Entrepreneurship can support the evolution of higher education. According to the Kauffman Foundation, universities need to become more entrepreneurial, “not only in what they teach and how they teach it, but in how they operate.” In 2003, the Kauffman Foundation set out to select Kauffman Campuses that embraced entrepreneurship across the curriculum, transforming the way colleges and universities prepare the next generation to be effective in a global and increasingly competitive economy.

As discussed during the 2009 Social Edge Chat hosted by Ashoka U on  “Universities as Agents of Change,” another group of colleges and universities have been recognized as Ashoka Changemaker Campuses. This designation recognizes institutions as hubs of social innovation, with pioneering programs, partnerships, and curriculum in social entrepreneurship. For the change leaders within each campus, developing an eco-system for future social entrepreneurs and changemakers and positioning their institutions as both agents and engines of change requires more than simply adding items to the course catalogue; experience has shown that disruptive innovation and systems change is needed to transform the higher education sector.

The Ashoka Changemaker Campuses are rising to the challenge and leading by example.

  • Duke’s Greg Dees and Matt Nash set the standard with the launch of the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) in 2002 and they continue to innovate by developing the Center as a valuable partner to both practitioners and the field as a whole through their research and consulting on scaling social impact (as they discuss in the “CASE on Business Models” Social Edge Blog).
  • Babson College’s Lewis Institute has transformed the orientation for first-year students by asking business students to think about their social impact “From Day One,” and they have re-imagined alumni affairs by offering support to budding social entrepreneurs once they graduate, while using the research to improve their curriculum (a program created in partnership with Social Edge blogger and leadership coach Julie Engel Manga).
  • Marquette University is acting on its vision to enable all students to “be the difference,” in alignment with the institution’s Jesuit values, by providing access to social innovation across their curriculum with an innovative “3-2-1 institutional embeddedness strategy.”
  • Schools like the New School and Tulane take advantage of their locations in New York City and New Orleans to inspire local community engagement and research, and as a result, the community has helped to redefine the institution through partnerships.
  • The University of Maryland’s Center for Social Value Creation has helped to redefine business success as synonymous with social impact, and they are starting at the undergraduate level by offering a one-year fellowship program geared towards juniors and seniors to develop innovative solutions for social and environmental challenges.
  • The host of this year’s Ashoka Exchange, Arizona State University (ASU) has been selected as both a Kauffman Campus and as a Changemaker Campus due to their groundbreaking approach as a New American University. Both entrepreneurship and social embededdness are valued as institutional design principles supporting significant progress towards addressing local and global challenges. ASU’s newest initiative, Changemaker Central catalyzes change by connecting students to likeminded changemakers and giving them access to service and entrepreneurship resources and opportunities.

Globally, organizations such as the Social Enterprise Knowledge Network (SEKN) in Latin America and EMES in Europe are the long time leaders in the field, fostering the growth of social entrepreneurship research and knowledge development. Most recently, in the fall of 2011, Ashoka officially launched Ashoka U Mexico, and selected Tec de Monterrey – Guadalajara as the first Ashoka Changemaker Campus outside of the United States.  Given the national mandate in Mexico for all students to participate in public service, this presents a huge opportunity to integrate social entrepreneurship and influence the higher education system.

A movement is growing. This Social Edge chat seeks to explore how social innovation has been translated into action at colleges and universities globally, and why it matters.

  • How would you articulate the need for disruptive innovation in higher education?
  • What examples have you seen of disruptive (social) innovation in higher education? What are you most proud of on your campus?
  • What is the potential impact of higher education embracing social innovation, both as an approach for institutional change and as a methodology for teaching and learning?
  • How can social entrepreneur practitioners most effectively partner with institutions of higher education to achieve both transformational social and educational results?
  • How will disruptive innovation present itself in similar or different ways in different cultural contexts? What is the global opportunity for social entrepreneurship education?
  • In what ways are students driving institutional transformation through demand?

This conversation is only the beginning!  Join us at the Ashoka U Exchange at Arizona State University in February 2012 to continue the dialogue. Workshop applications are due September 30, 2011 on the theme of Disruptive (Social) Innovation in Higher Education.

In the meantime, join Ashoka’s Erin Krampetz and ASU’s Jacqueline Smith in the conversation.