May 24, 2017

Gateway Course – Social Innovation

Social Innovation (I&E 261)

Professors: Matthew Nash, Katherine Black

Semester: Fall 2015

Artifact: Lu.Helen_Promising Opportunity- Geminii


Social Innovation (I&E 261) was not only my first exposure to the world of social innovation and social enterprise but also to the field of Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Prior to taking this course, my knowledge of entrepreneurship solely resided in TV shows such as “Silicon Valley” and “Shark Tank”, mobile applications that I used, and articles that I read online about the next “unicorn” in the tech space.

However, this course defied my preconceived notions that entrepreneurship only referred to technology startups based in California or New York. As we evaluated social ventures in areas ranging from healthcare to education, I learned that entrepreneurship was a much more fluid term that could refer to physical products or innovation in processes, among other things. With guest speakers, group projects, and readings that were assigned as part of the course, Social Innovation (I&E 261) provided the foundation and frameworks that helped me understand how innovation could be used to help people and what “human-centered design” actually meant. I enjoyed hearing from a representative from Burt’s Bees (who described innovations in marketing strategy that were currently being employed), learning about Muhammad Yunus (founder of Grameen Bank), and even participating in the Gumball Challenge (my team raised $400+ from the initial $27 by delivering Cookout milkshakes). I especially loved learning about human-centered design and the process of social innovation in healthcare. One case we studied – MinuteClinics – made me realize that “disruptive innovation” was something that I wanted to pursue. Not all innovations were about adding fancier attributes to existing products; some innovations were meant to provide other segments a lower-cost, “scrappier” option that could work just as well.

At the end of the semester, each student was challenged to present an idea that would have a positive social impact of a community of his or her choosing. I chose to tackle to problem of social isolation on college campuses as my “promising opportunity”; this presentation – which I have attached as my artifact – represents the accumulation of a semester’s worth of readings, group projects, guest lectures, in-class discussions, and education on the process of innovation: design, development, and delivery.

This course was not only fundamental in changing the way I thought about entrepreneurship, but it was also crucial in introducing a potential career path for the future. After enrolling in Social Innovation and having Greg Van Kirk (founder of Social Entrepreneur Corps) come in as a guest speaker, I felt inspired to apply for the DukeEngage Social Entrepreneur Corps Program in Guatemala. The following summer (Summer 2016), I was able to go to Guatemala and continue my exploration of social entrepreneurship as a community consultant for SEC.