Northeastern University is one of the latest schools to be recognized as a leading institution in driving social innovation and social entrepreneurship education by Ashoka U, the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurship education.
One of only 35 higher education institutions in the world to be awarded a “Changemaker Campus” designation, Northeastern completed a selection process that was four years in the making. From its early beginnings in 2012, the D’Amore-McKim School of Business Social Enterprise Institute brought together faculty, staff, and students from across the university to better connect and support those who are addressing some of the world’s most pressing problems. The designation now solidifies the university’s commitment to integrating social innovation into all aspects of the student experience, according to Sara Minard, executive professor of entrepreneurship and innovation and assistant academic specialist at D’Amore-McKim. Minard helped lead Northeastern’s designation in partnership with her fellow “Change Leaders” in the Social Impact Lab, NuLawLab, the Social Justice Resource Center, and host of student leaders.
The achievement was recently celebrated across campus on “Changemaker Day.” Student leaders hosted activities, and a town hall meeting was held for faculty and staff to showcase the social innovation already happening on campus and to consider ways to better harness social change across Northeastern.
Several D’Amore-McKim students helped bring this designation to fruition. Their experiences highlight integral and unique aspects of learning at D’Amore-McKim, as well as the growth of social innovation and social entrepreneurship education at Northeastern.
One of these students, Nadav David, DMSB’18, used to spend time thinking about how he could make his business studies more meaningful. Last spring, David, a finance major, assessed the potential of a community space within a supermarket located in a low income neighborhood of Boston in his Advanced Social Enterprise class.
“I learned being part of the potential to create these kinds of initiatives is what drives me,” he said.
David is already busy planning the next campus event, Changemaker Stages. He is organizing what he hopes will become an annual gathering where people across the Northeastern community come together to share their personal narratives, network, and inspire social change.
For graduating senior, Sydney Banks, DMSB’16, creating pathways for younger students to understand how you can get involved is important. Banks, a marketing major, felt like she understood too late in her time as a student that business can mean something that exists outside of big corporations. She attributed refining her acumen across three very different co-ops. “I was able to understand the real-world application of marketing at a corporation, and also get my hands dirty,” Banks said.
On Changemaker Day, Banks helped organize student events in Curry Student Center and spoke with several interested in the initiative.
Neel Desai, CSSH’17, knew he wanted to major in economics, but it wasn’t until he took a class in social entrepreneurship with an international field study component that he began to understand the industry in which he truly wanted to grow. His field study in Cape Town, South Africa, involved working in a group to consult with a social organization on the expansion of its business.
“Understanding people’s unique skillsets, from the nuances of a culture and its history to the financial viability of a business expansion, can work when people come together to solve real problems,” he said. “This set the trajectory for my path at Northeastern.” Desai will finish his second co-op in May from a tech education startup, will assist Minard in a social enterprise Dialogue of Civilizations program to India, and then will start his new role as the next CEO of IDEA, the student-led venture accelerator. He plans to diversify the venture accelerator’s portfolio with more social businesses.
A vision for the future
“From a business school perspective, there are many students who want to have conversations around the role of business and society and understand how people in business make change.” The designation will act as a platform, according to Minard, connecting students who want to better understand their roles in organizations and the greater society. Minard and other “Change Leaders” are working to build a “Change Team” to address the strategic side of the new campus designation.
Banks hopes that when she returns to campus after graduation, it will be a more connected campus. “When I come back five years from now, I’d love to see a thriving ecosystem across campus, where professors and students can easily connect over lunch for how we can create change.”
As Desai put it, “The designation is the start of many good collaborations to come.”
The next event, Changemaker Stages: “Identity and Community,” will take place on March 25 at 6:15 p.m. in afterHours, aiming to begin building a narrative around what social change means for students, faculty, staff, and community members. Register here.
Written by Emily Turner