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A Prediction for the Social Entrepreneurship Education Trends of Tomorrow

January 12, 2015 - 7:45am

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

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.

Research Shows that Employers Want to Hire Changemakers

January 7, 2015 - 10:49am

Employers increasingly want to hire more entrepreneurial, more ethical, more impactful employees. And it’s no coincidence that the skills taught in Portland State University’s online certificate in social innovation and social entrepreneurship (a “changemaker certificate“) match those most desired by employers. As work becomes more complex and demand for creativity and flexibility grows, the skills linked to creating positive social and environmental impact — those of a “changemaker” — increasingly overlap with those that help organizations succeed financially.

The influential economist Michael Porter argues that businesses succeed when they create value not just for owners, but “shared value” for society as well. A similar approach is embraced by nearly 1200 sustainable businesses that have obtained B Corp certification, and by the 27 states that now allow Benefit Corporations as a distinct legal entity. The social entrepreneurs recognized as Ashoka or Skoll fellows have been pursuing transformative approaches to creating value for society, around the world, for decades. But it’s not just triple-bottom-line businesses, social enterprises, and nonprofits that want changemakers as employees; traditional businesses do as well.

How do we know? We looked at five recent surveys of in-demand job skills covering more than 4000 employers and 5600 individuals both in the United States and around the world (from MckinseyGeorgetown University; the National Association of Colleges and EmployersGallup/Lumina Foundation; and a consortium of employer organizations). We then looked at the top 10 human skills listed in each survey, separating out training in specific technical skills such as math, English fluency, and computer literacy. What we found is that the remaining skills line up neatly with the attributes of successful changemakers identified across studies summarized by faculty at the University of Northampton (an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, like Portland State University).

For example, the top job skills demanded across all five employment surveys — oral communication, written communication, and critical thinking/problem solving — were also identified as critical attributes of successful changemakers in a number of research papers. Work ethic and teamwork, the next most desired skills, were likewise shared across both sets of research. Creativity, leadership, and self-management are key to both employability and successful change creation. Even skills like ethics and initiative, essential for social entrepreneurs, are highly desired by employers.

Our students explore each of these top skills in our certificate program. Experiential assignments and applied learning prepare them to launch a venture or to work effectively for an employer. Each student creates and refines a solution to a social or environmental problem of their choice, using best practices from design thinking, lean entrepreneurship, and leadership. Whether or not they decide to make their social venture a reality, they’re learning the most in-demand skills to be successful wherever life takes them. And we’re glad to know employers increasingly believe that employees who create shared value are also the most valued.

Changemakers on the Portland, Oregon field study option of PSU’s Certificate in Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship.

By Jacen Greene, Program Manager for Social Enterprise Initiatives, Impact Entrepreneurs at Portland State University

Partnerships for Health from PSU to Rwanda

December 1, 2014 - 1:02pm

This post was contributed by Jonathan Fink, Vice President of Research & Strategic Partnerships at Portland State University. It was originally posted in the Research & Strategic Partnerships Quarterly Review, Fall 2014

For the Fall 2014 term, PSU Mechanical Engineering Professor Evan Thomas is in the tiny, east African nation of Rwanda working on an ambitious program, locally called Tubeho Neza (“Live well”), to help reduce childhood mortality from diarrhea and pneumonia by distributing water filters and clean-burning cook stoves to the poorest quarter of this UN designated Least Developed Country (LDC). The project is run by DelAgua Health, of which Evan is the Chief Operating Officer, in partnership with the Rwandan Ministry of Health. This report is based on a recent visit I made to Evan’s inspiring operation.

Much of the funding for the project comes from the sale of United Nations issued carbon credits, made possible because the filters and stoves reduce the villagers’ need for firewood, thus lessening the pressure on Rwanda’s mostly-depleted forests. Receiving carbon credit funding requires careful monitoring of the use of the stoves and filters, which is done by independent auditing organizations, as well as through a robust research program run out of PSU in collaboration with the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Emory University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Rwanda.

Tracking the performance and usage of stoves and filters is accomplished in part through the use of wireless transmitters that Evan and his co-workers at PSU have developed, which are embedded in approximately 1% of the deployed filters and stoves. The transmitters send usage data over the ubiquitous cell-phone network to the research and programmatic teams. These sensors are also deployed in 14 other countries by PSU, and allow philanthropic, public and private funders of public health programs to know whether their investments are being used and having impact.

I observed the deployment that was part of the second of Tubeho Neza’s three phases. Phase I, which was completed in 2012, reached 10,000 people in 15 villages. Phase II, which began in September 2014 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014, should reach 500,000 people in 2600 villages. Phase III in 2015 aims to serve at least 2M people in 13,000 villages.

Rwandan family learning how to use their new water filter.

DelAgua, which is a social enterprise, hopes that the less poor 3/4 of the population, seeing the health benefits received by their neighbors, will choose to purchase stoves and filters for themselves, helping the company recover their costs and allowing them to continue to receive payments for carbon credits.

Each deployment is a complex, well-choreographed operation. Filters and stoves are picked up at DelAgua’s warehouses in Kigali and delivered to the villages by the Rwandan National Police, contingent on the roads being passable, which is not always the case, especially during the two annual rainy seasons. Coordination is done ahead of time with the village leaders, who confirm the identities of each community member that will be receiving filters and stoves. Local Community Health Workers (CHW), who are employees of the national government and get trained by DelAgua staff, assist with the distribution.

The actual deployment kicks off with speeches by a village leader and a DelAgua project manager, who outline what will be taking place over the following few hours. Next, the CHWs put on a humorous play, depicting the health effects of contaminated drinking water and dirty indoor air from cooking. This is followed by more speeches telling the villagers about how the filters and pumps work, and the nature of the program, including warnings to not steal or try to sell the devices. Each recipient then gets checked off a list by a village leader, gets their stove and filter, along with a poster that shows how they’re used, and heads back to their home. CHWs then go to every home to explain again how the devices work, using a picture book as well as the poster. They also conduct a survey about the family, which provides baseline information about demographics and helps in calculating carbon credits. GPS locations and photos of the homes are recorded, along with bar codes for the filters and stoves. Before the end of the day, after the families have had an opportunity to try their devices, the CHWs return to make sure everything is working properly. All of these activities are designed to be robust implementations of well-established health behavior change methodology.

The community members I met seemed grateful and intrigued by the whole process. The scale is ramping up rapidly, but the underlying public private partnership model for aid distribution is not yet well established. Success requires the cooperation of the community, the National Police, the Ministry of Public Health, the CHWs, DelAgua’s leadership, the manufacturers of the stoves and filters, the organizations providing the carbon credits, and the weather. I found the ambition and scale of the program to be mind-boggling. If they succeed, it could radically change the way global assistance is done.

As if the humanitarian aspects of Tubeho Neza were not impactful enough, DelAgua’s work in Rwanda is also the subject of a major scientific research program encompassing mechanical and electrical engineering, tropical medicine, epidemiology, statistics, and climate change. The PSU-led team of researchers described above are participating in a large-scale randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the health impacts of the filter and stove deployments. DelAgua is the primary funder of this research effort, with some additional support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Nearly $2M of funding has come through PSU for this program over the past two years.

Comparison with 40,000 households in the control areas is used to help evaluate the 100,000 households in the program areas. The team is measuring villagers’ behavior and device use through a combination of the PSU sensors, self-reported health conditions, blood samples, blood pressure, and in situ air and water quality monitoring. This information is then compared with clinically reported pneumonia and diarrhea cases among children under 5. This is one of the largest environmental health RCTs ever run.

In addition to the DelAgua program, PSU leads a separate research project, funded by the British Department for International Development, to put sensors on 200 hand pumps across Rwanda to assess the relative efficacy of three different operation and maintenance models with the goal of seeing if sensors can improve the cost-effectiveness of water service delivery in developing countries. This is a critical issue because worldwide, roughly half of the water pumps installed by governments and aid programs are broken at any given time, and estimates of compliance with international metrics such as the Millennium Development Goals are likely over estimating progress.

These projects are expected to result in a large number of scientific publications in the next few years, and will open the door to many additional funding opportunities for comparable programs in several other developing world settings. In addition to the social and economic benefits in the targeted countries, this work can demonstrate the beneficial role of cutting-edge engineering technology in international development, expand the market for carbon credits, extend the global reach of Oregon companies and institutions, form part of the foundation for the new joint OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, and provide unique training opportunities for students from the US, UK, Rwanda, and other LDCs.

Creating Environments for Social Change

November 6, 2014 - 8:15am

Cindy Cooper, co-founder and director of PSU’s Impact Entrepreneurs

Every day Cindy Cooper is unleashing the promise of business for social impact. As Co-Founder and Director of Impact Entrepreneurs at Portland State University, Cindy teaches entrepreneurship and design as they relate to social change. She has guided countless students and professionals to align their purpose with their career and helped many aspiring entrepreneurs launch new social ventures. A social entrepreneur herself, Cindy has now catalyzed a social entrepreneurship movement at Portland State University, including creating an online certificate in social innovation and social entrepreneurship.

In this podcast Cindy speaks with Jackie Babicky, an author and instructor who has worked with small business entrepreneurs for over 30 years. Together Jackie and Cindy explore questions like: Who is a social entrepreneur? What’s the difference between an entrepreneur and a social entrepreneur? and What’s an Encore career? 

Cindy talks about applying entrepreneurial skills to create social change from local to global, from personal to institutional, and how everyone can be a changemaker.

Social Change in Business


Thinking, Learning and Doing

October 30, 2014 - 2:03pm

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

Congratulations to my fellow graduates, and thank you to co-instructors Cindy Cooper and Jacen Greene for all of your work crafting such a content-rich course! 

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.

Gina Condon

Construct Foundation | President

We’re Hiring

October 23, 2014 - 9:22am
Changemaker Campus Liaison Internship The Details

Position: Changemaker Campus Liaison Intern
Location: Portland, OR
Deadline: Review of applications will begin immediately – open until filled (final deadline to apply is November 3, 2014)
Duration: Part-time, Temporary (12-15) hrs/week for 3 academic terms ending June 15, 2015 with the potential to extend through June 15, 2016.
Start date: Open until filled. Ideal start date will be December 1, 2014

Job Description

At Portland State, we believe that education can be a world-changing experience. It can spark ideas, open doors, and cultivate the skills for anyone to become a changemaker. Changemakers dream, discover, and learn. They seek out solutions to problems others say cannot be solved. They are artists, engineers, teachers, builders, cooks, economists, designers, planners, policy makers, writers, creators, activists, scientists, performers, entrepreneurs. They are thinkers and they are doers. We believe everyone has the capacity to be a changemaker.

In 2012, Portland State was selected as part of the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus consortium, a select group of institutions of higher education that demonstrate commitment and cutting-edge approaches to galvanizing solutions to major human and environmental challenges. More information can be found at:

We are seeking a driven and energetic student to be PSU’s first Changemaker Campus Liaison. If you like to work with diverse people and big ideas, if you have have a positive, can-do attitude, and are passionate about making a difference for PSU and the world, this may be the internship for you.

Primary Responsibilities

Primary Responsibilities: The Intern will have the unique opportunity to not only advance Changemaker Campus strategies, but also to help define the future of this initiative. Responsibilities include:

• Planning and staffing events (workshops, lectures, etc.) and conducting student outreach about courses, career opportunities and events

• Creating a Changemaker Career Fair (explore partnering with Idealist, ACS, and Net Impact)

• Identifying PSU’s changemaker stories and pathways to changemaking on campus. This will involve developing online and/or other resources to help students access pathways to changemaking and assisting with the production of Changemaker Stories videos.

• Posting on social media, writing and curating relevant blog stories

• Interfacing with Ashoka U and other Changemaker Campuses and internal PSU changemaker groups, attending Ashoka U Exchange conference, if possible, and researching best practices from other Changemaker Campuses.

• Other potential roles for this position include developing and/or implementing funding or revenue streams and managing student volunteers.


You are a person of integrity. You are curious, a seeker, but also able to focus on results. You have the optimism to believe in a better world and the realism and project management skills to reach such optimistic goals. You laugh easily. You can also demonstrate:

• Strong verbal and written communication skills that inspire people to take action

• Ability to get things done on time on your own and when working in teams

• Experience developing and managing successful partnerships

• Experience envisioning future states and developing strategies to achieve them

• Experience hiring and managing volunteers with positive results or a willingness to develop yourself in this area

•Comfort with trying new things, learning what works and making changes to what doesn’t

• Social media savvy including some experience with WordPress, MailChimp, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

• Ability to create and edit short storytelling videos or the willingness to learn how

• Experience or interest in raising money, starting an organization or other entrepreneurial activity

Time Requirements

The hours are flexible with a range of (12 – 15) hours per week


Graduate students: $500 per month/$1500 per term; undergraduate students: $400 per month/$1,200 per term (prorated for number of days worked). This position is being funded through the generous support of donors and the Institute for Sustainable Solutions to the Sustainability Internship Program to support student career pathways in sustainability. This will be a high-visibility, leadership position. Your compensation may also include:

• Networking opportunities with businesses, nonprofits, and national PSU partners • Attending events or workshops

• Building your resume through significant responsibilities and projects that will make a lasting difference


This position requires current enrollment as a PSU student.

To confirm that you are formally admitted and enrolled, please email your full name and student ID to Include the name of the internship you are applying for in the subject line. Once your status is confirmed, you will receive the full application instructions via email.