Gateway: Social Innovation
Social Innovation is the course that led me to pursue the I&E Certificate. I was so amazed by what I was learning in this course that I knew I had to learn more and take more classes in the department. I had always been involved with philanthropic organizations such as the Arthritis Foundation and the Akanksha Foundation prior to coming to Duke and I had never known that there was such a thing as social innovation or how it was possible to have a for profit venture that created social impact.
This class was truly amazing in that we had such hands on learning experience, creating our own mini ventures, engaging with guest speakers who were all social innovators, creating business models, and critically analyzing existing social enterprises. We looked at ventures that addressed huge global issues ranging from lack of clean water to defeating poverty and hunger. As a public policy major, discussing such topics was of great interest to me and I was able to use the discussion in our Social Innovation class to contribute to my conversations in my public policy courses. Having the perspective from Social Innovation allowed me to offer an interesting point of view, from a slightly different lens in my public policy courses.
The hands-on experiences we had were especially valuable, but also a lot of fun. Our first team project had a very simple, yet daunting request: In one week, make as much money as possible while creating social good, starting out with just $27 and 27 gumballs. Immediately, my team was floored. What could we possibly do? Eventually, after a lot of iteration of ideas and brainstorming of potential week-long ventures, we came up with our idea for “Coupons for Cause.” (see presentation: Team 4 Gumball Presentation). We approached a number of Duke students’ favorite off campus food vendors and requested coupons, gift cards, etc. from these different places. We then resold these coupons on campus to Duke students at a lower price. The social good that we were doing aside from donating the money we made to Grameen America was that we were increasing the client base of local Durham restaurants. In the end, after some setbacks, we ended up making close to $200, of which we were very proud.
Assignments like the Gumball challenge taught me a lot about myself as well as about the course material itself. I learned that I am an effective communicator and mediator. I was constantly up to date on what each of my team members was doing and I was constantly writing in our group chat to make sure we were all on the same page. After experiencing failure due to a unforeseen rain storm that halted our sales, I learned how to make a quick turnaround and utilize the resources that my team had available. Therefore several iterations and extreme frustration made for eventual success! Similarly, for my promising opportunity project, I truly had the feeling that I was designing a “to-be-in-existence” social enterprise. I became excited about the idea and eager to refine and maybe push it forward.
Social Innovation was an amazing course that I would highly recommend to any student interested in business or volunteerism. I learned so much and feel like I have a greater sense of what it really means to be a “business person” and how important it is to understand all that innovation and entrepreneurship can be.
Artifact: Promising Opportunity Assignment
As my promising opportunity for the gateway course, Social Innovation, I designed a tutoring and mentoring program which has components of empowerment for the underprivileged participants involved. The goal of the program was to have a community built around education. The tutors and mentors in the program would also be parts of impoverished communities and have them be connected to one another. There would be several positive outcomes from its implementation including a much cheaper alternative for receiving supplemental education since private tutors are very expensive. The tutors/mentors would be empowered by their position as older and talented role models. The tutors would make a salary, learn how to manage money and will be incentivized to work well with their students. Finally, there is an academic benefit for both the students and their tutors.