Read the original article in Forbes here.
Our guest blogger Derek Ellerman looks back on his time at Brown University in honor of Brown’s designation as Changemaker Campus today.Derek is the co-founder of Polaris Project and an Ashoka Fellow. He’s currently launching a new start-up, SHIFT, to support the rising generation of social entrepreneurs.
The day after I graduated from Brown University, my friend and I did something kind of crazy. We packed up a U-Haul truck and moved toWashington, DC to launch a new non-profit organization – with no money, no contacts, and, to be frank, not much of an idea of what we were doing. We were passionate about ending human trafficking and were ready to just figure it all out along the way.
Ten years later, our fledgling start-up has grown into one of the leading organizations in our field. We did end up figuring it out along the way, but like many entrepreneurs we had to do it under the unforgiving tutelage of the school of hard knocks.
How could we have been better prepared?
Like most universities a decade ago, Brown offered little formal support for budding social innovators. We could take courses on policy, political science, and social issues. But for real-world skills or mentorship around leadership, management, strategy, and social innovation, we were on our own.
Today, a remarkable shift is underway. Brown and dozens of other universities across the country are part of a growing movement in higher education to make the social impact of their graduates a central institutional priority. One of the main organizations pushing this trend is Ashoka U, which has created the Changemaker Campus Consortium to recognize and support universities at the leading edge of this change.
I had the opportunity this summer to serve on the selection panel for the newest members of the Changemaker Campus Consortium – Portland State University, Rollins College, Brigham Young University, and, yes, Brown – which joined the current 15 members, among them Duke, Arizona State, Middlebury, and The New School.
Hearing about some of the groundbreaking new initiatives these colleges and universities are advancing was incredibly heartening.
Take, for example, the Starr Fellowship, at my own alma mater, which now provides Brown undergraduates with funding, training, and mentoring support to launch their own social ventures.
Or, the Entrepreneurial Leaders Program (ELP) taught by Portland State University’s business school faculty. The program has already offered training in business fundamentals, social innovation, and leadership effectiveness to more than 100 emerging social enterprise leaders from Mercy Corps, Digital Divide Data, Save the Children, World Vision, and other organizations.
ELP equips these leaders with the skills they need to improve their organization’s financial, social and environmental performance. In Indonesia, one participant adapted an ELP module to train 30 local youth, from which three new social businesses emerged. In Zimbabwe, a participant used ELP tools to develop a program that has now issued 51 grants to help more than 500 children with disabilities get health care and assistive devices.
Clearly, this is not just good news for the social sector but also for the business world. Businesses will increasingly have access to newly minted trained graduates – as well as re-tooled mid-career professionals – who have real-world experience as innovators, leaders, and managers and who focus on the social and environmental impact of their work.
And of course, it’s particularly good news for the next generation of social innovators, who can now graduate to a school of slightly softer knocks.