Ashoka U and Cordes Foundation Announce “Most Innovative Educators of 2012”

Forget the Oscars—this week, the hottest stars on the red carpet are ideas for improving higher education. Six sustainable, scalable teaching and partnership models to bring disruptive social innovation education have won the 2012 Ashoka U – Cordes Innovation Award.

Ashoka U, Ashoka's initiative that’s transforming college campuses into hubs for social innovation, and the Cordes Foundation, the organization that is equipping the next generation of social entrepreneurs with the resources they need, together recognized these six winners, who distinguished themselves from a pool of 80 award nominations.

The winning innovations, selected for their ability to “embrace innovative community partnerships, online open courseware, and large-scale institutional change for maximum social impact,” were chosen by an expert panel of social entrepreneurs and educational leaders.

And the winners are: 

  • Duke University’s “Social Entrepreneurship in Action” course, developed and taught by Tony Brown of the Duke Enterprising Leadership Initiative. Students in the course are responsible for creating real-world results with their social ventures in the greater Durham community—their grades depend on it. To date, Duke University has launched more than 50 community-focused, student-led social ventures, many of which are still active today.
  • Urban Innovation Challenge (UIC) in New Orleans, developed by Stephanie Barskdale with Tulane University’s Social Innovation Initiative and the Rockefeller Foundation. Tulane’s UIC program supports “urban innovators” to research and develop solutions to problems in New Orleans; impact is measured by jobs created, pounds of food produced, dollars saved on retirement benefits, and houses built.
  • ThinkImpact’s Innovation Institute, a full-immersion social entrepreneurship education program hosted in rural Africa and founded by Saul Garlick of ThinkImpact. ThinkImpact brings together students from across the United States to work directly with local African entrepreneurs to foster collaborative economic development.
  • ALTIS Joint Venture MBA in Social Entrepreneurship and Management, hosted by three institutions from Italy, India, and Kenya, and launched by Stefano Guidotti of ALTIS – Universitá Cattolica del Sacro Cuore – Milan (Italy). MBA candidates complete the program by presenting a fully-fledged business plan to both partners and investors in Nairobi, Kenya. Past ventures have produced bio-fertilizers in Ghana and improved micro-health insurance in Nigeria.
  • Berkeley MBA Microfinance Online Course, initiated and led by Sean Foote of Berkeley’s Center for Executive Education. Foote’s social entrepreneurship education resource has found its way to more than 75 universities over the past four years, and will soon be complemented by a textbook and courses in other subjects like impact investing.
  • University Innovation Fellowship, created and led by Kimberly de los Santos of the Arizona State University Office of University Initiatives. The Fellowship rewards high-performing policy makers, researchers, writers, and designers by inviting them to work as members of the ASU president’s office. Together, they form a team to create a cultural revolution both on campus and in the city of Phoenix.

These six Ashoka U – Cordes Innovation Awardees were recognized by Diana Wells and Ron Cordes earlier this month, at the Ashoka U Exchange, in front of an audience of more than 400 participants representing 100 universities from around the world.

These judges were: Tim Brodhead, former president of the J.W. McConnell Foundation; Christy Chin, portfolio director at the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation; Judith Cone, special assistant to the president for innovation and entrepreneurship at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; Ron Cordes, co-founder of the Cordes Family Foundation; Jorge de la Torre, director of institutional relations at Santander; Derek Ellerman, Ashoka Fellow and founder of the Polaris Project; Rich Leimsider, director of fellow and alumni programs at Echoing Green; David Lipkin, principal of business development at Method; Jennifer Ratay, program director for the Hewlett Foundation; and Diana Wells, president of Ashoka.

These six ideas are stand-out stars, but the future of education is a wide-open space. How will you rewrite the course of history?