Gateway – Social Innovation

I&E510 Social Innovation Practicum – Spring 2018

I&E510 is a graduate-level class taught by Matt Nash & Paul Bloom, both of whom are well-recognized in the field of social innovation and social entrepreneurship. The class provided a brief overview of relevant topics to social innovators (such as Theory of Change, Ecosystems, Business Models, etc). The unique component of the class was the opportunity to work with a local nonprofit organization and providing them with consulting services. My team and I worked with the Scrap Exchange, a local nonprofit creative reuse center in the Durham community.

The Scrap Exchange has operated for over 25 years, collecting materials from industries and individuals which would otherwise be thrown away

They sell these “scraps” to encourage creativity through art and to reduce environmental waste.

The Scrap Exchange was looking for ways to scale their business and their social impact. After researching and working with them for the semester, we provided them with resources to begin examining social franchising as an option to scale their operations.

We found that social franchising through affiliations would be the best way to scale their social impact on a low budget, as creative reuse centers often have limits on financial resources.


Below is the final write-up and report we submitted to our community partner. Be warned that the material is quite dense.


You can also click the images below to see a summary/project qual, or a more interactive prezi can be viewed to see our scope of work.


In general, Duke students are well-known for being more business minded, pursuing lucrative Wall Street and consulting jobs. But nowadays, more and more businesses are embracing the importance of having a social impact. This class taught me so much about the social entrepreneurship sector, giving me insight into diversified opinions of future career goals.

The first thing I realized is that consulting is very open-ended work that truly requires in-depth immersion and research into understanding the problem your team is trying to solve.  Our group project was successful in achieving preliminary goals, but I’m far from satisfied; there is still much more work to be done that the Scrap Exchange needs.

I used to think that nonprofits and the social sector were the gold standard for altruism. But unfortunately many social organizations are not as effective or beneficial as we hope them to be.

For example, PlayPumps, an innovation that received $16 million from the Clinton Foundation, was supposed to be a revolutionary way to deliver water in rural Africa. Instead it was plagued with inefficiencies, a faulty business model, and actually made it harder to obtain water. (Image source: Playpump international)

I thought to myself, “Is social innovation actually a good thing? Is there any way to help society without unknowingly causing harm?” Fundamentally, yes. While there are many examples of social initiatives ending poorly, there are also plenty of examples of products and companies that have made a lasting impact through social innovation.

With 25+ years of history and over $1 million annual revenue, the Scrap Exchange is a great example of a successful social business

Just because there is a concern that, for example, donating food prevents rural farmers from growing revenue generating crops, does not mean that humanity should try to stop ending world hunger. Fixing one problem often leads to more, but these new issues can and will be debugged (at least, that’s what I learned from engineering!)

Overall, I would still say that this was a fantastic class that offered a great opportunity for me to learn about social innovation and the field of business consulting, and these experiences will definitely help to guide my decisions in the future.