Curated Story
Source: Ashoka
This article originally appeared on Stanford Social Innovation Review

In the summer of 2017, Dwight Hall—Yale’s Center for Public Service and Social Justice, one of the oldest collegiate public service institutions in the nation—met with several community leaders in the Greater New Haven area for a series of listening sessions, to ask one question: What can Yale administrators do to facilitate town-gown programming that offers clear learning objectives for students while fulfilling specific community needs?

Time and time again, the same words came up: Reciprocity, Commitment, Love.

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Ashoka insight

Our model is based around three core themes: knowledge sharing, developing a community of practice, and capacity building. Building outward from these ideas, our work ranges from creating an Economic Development Speaker Series and organizing a team of Economic and Community Development Coordinators to serve as interns and connectors for organizations working to develop a resilient entrepreneurship ecosystem in New Haven, to facilitating the project management of a participatory budgeting process.

These and other efforts have shown us that supporting innovation should not be a top-down approach premised on straitjacketing program designs. While students' needs are often centered on creating a low-risk, color-by-numbers, style of replicable programming, such models don’t necessarily allow community needs to be brought into the conversation during the planning stages. Innovation supported by higher education must be practice-based, and accordingly, must be led and continuously transformed by the lived experience of those we intend to help.