Announcing the 2013 Ashoka U – Cordes Innovation Award Winners

February 5, 2013

As more and more colleges and universities seek to launch and grow social entrepreneurship programs on campus, there is an even greater need to share expertise, challenges, and inspiration for creating positive social and environmental impact.

 The Ashoka U Exchange, hosted at the University of San Diego from February 21 – 23, 2013 seeks to address this need by bringing together over 150 colleges and universities representing forty countries to share best practices and advance collaborative projects both across campuses and with social entrepreneur practitioners.

To highlight some of the most high-impact and replicable innovations, Ashoka U and the Cordes Foundation will recognize six promising educational approaches in social entrepreneurship with the Ashoka U – Cordes Innovation Awards. The six winners are:

  • More than Money Careers created and taught by Mrim Boutla and Mark Albion, Co-Founders and Managing Partners at More Than Money Careers.
  • Lend for America Fellowship led by Vanessa Carter, Executive Director at Lend for America.
  • Global Citizen Year Counts for College developed by Abby Falik, Founder and CEO of Global Citizen Year.
  • Changemaker Central at Arizona State University created by students for students and represented by Kaitlyn Fitzgerald, Student Director of Changemaker Central.
  • Frontier Market Scouts founded by Yuwei Shi of Middlebury's Monterey Institute of International Studies, Sabiha Malik of Sanghata Global, and Ross Baird of Village Capital. 
  • Design for America founded at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering by Liz Gerber, Mert Iseri, Hannah Chung, and Yuri Malina. Led by Sami Nerenberg, Thea Klein-Mayer, Kayla Matheus, Daniel Rees Lewis, and a nation-wide network of students and volunteers.

The awardees were selected by a prestigious panel of judges consisting of social innovation thought leaders: David Castro, Ashoka Fellow and Founder and President of iLead; Christy Chin, Portfolio Director at the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation; Ron Cordes, Co-Founder of the Cordes Foundation; Kippy Joseph, Associate Director of Innovation at the Rockefeller Foundation; and Regina Starr Ridley, Publishing Director at the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

The 2013 Ashoka U – Cordes Innovation Awardees demonstrate how students, faculty, and community members can achieve social impact through colleges and universities - from admissions, curriculum, and career services, all the way to community and alumni engagement.

 Student Led Change || Lend for America and Changemaker Central

Lend for America is a national membership organization that guides college students in starting campus-based microfinance groups in the United States. Through intensive training and peer learning, Lend for America helps its members foster financial self-sufficiency and create jobs in their communities. Students make microloans to local businesses, offer affordable financial services to low-income individuals, and develop innovative models to deliver these products and services. For example, the Intersect Fund — founded by Rutgers University students —devised a Web-based loan-underwriting system in which loan officers process applications on iPads; analysts receive client information instantly and assess applicants' creditworthiness in minutes. At Grinnell College, students created an emergency loan product that can be turned around in 24-hours as an alternative to the numerous payday lenders in the small Iowa town.

Established in the fall of 2011, Changemaker Central is a student-led university-based initiative with co-working spaces at all four Arizona State University (ASU) campuses. Changemaker Central supports students in community service, entrepreneurship, service learning, and high-impact careers. Their social entrepreneurship programs include: 1) 10,000 Solutions, a collaborative online platform where students and community members can submit solutions for challenges they have identified and 2) the ASU Innovation Challenge that supports students in developing their idea, forming a team, identifying a mentor, creating a business plan, and pitching their idea to a panel of judges. The grand-prize winner receives $10,000 to implement his or her project. For example, G3 Box has been able to secure funding to manufacture medical clinics made from discarded shipping containers. 

Immersive Training for Students, Community Members, and Career-Changers || Design for America and Frontier Market Scouts

Design for America (DFA) is an award-winning nationwide network of interdisciplinary student teams and community members using design to create local and social impact. DFA teaches human centered design to young adults and collaborates with community partners through extra-curricular, university based, student led design studios tackling national challenges in Education, Health, Economy and Environment. Founded at Northwestern University in 2009, DFA now has studios all over the country within universities such as Stanford, UCLA, University of Oregon, UC Berkeley, Yale, and more with over 2,000 students in their network and 350 core team members. DFA is a pipeline of innovators, changemakers, and social entrepreneurs. This year, two of their start-ups, SwipeSense and Jerry the Bear, have gone on to raise nearly $1.5 million in start-up capital, with more projects in the pipeline ready to make an impact. DFA, their students, and projects have been featured in publications such as the cover of Fast Company, Oprah Magazine, Inc Magazine, Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, and Harvard Business Review.

The Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) fellowship program turns compassionate and capable young professionals into talent scouts and investment managers serving local entrepreneurs and social-minded investors in low-income and capital-weak regions of the world. Fellows (undergraduates, graduate students, career changers, and professionals) complete a certificate program in impact investing and social enterprise management in Monterey, California before departing on two to six month-long field assignments. The pre-deployment training is delivered by leading practitioners in social enterprise management and impact investing. Launched in January 2011, FMS has trained 87 participants in impact investing and social enterprise management and has placed 56 fellows with 63 small and growing businesses in Brazil, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Peru, South Africa, Turkey, the United States, and Venezuela. 

From Entry to Exit || Bridge Year Credit with Global Citizen Year & The New School and Career Coaching with More than Money Careers

Global Citizen Year provides a world-class “bridge year” experience to high school graduates from diverse backgrounds who exhibit exceptional leadership potential. In 2012, Global Citizen Year launched a groundbreaking partnership with The New School. Accepted students participate in Global Citizen Year’s intensive 10-month service learning and entrepreneurial leadership training program in the developing world while earning credits for up to a full academic year of college. Participants are simultaneously enrolled at The New School, and in addition to Global Citizen Year’s curriculum they complete assignments designed by The New School faculty. The program enables students to receive 30 credits towards graduation, thereby placing them on track to begin their on-campus college experience as sophomores. This inaugural college partnership advances Global Citizen Year’s aim to re-envision the transition into college, and to do so in a way that can be replicated and adapted on a national scale. 

Despite the remarkable increase in courses, programs, and experiential learning opportunities in social entrepreneurship and innovation, as seen from these innovation awardees, many students remain unable to translate their education into a clear, concise, and coherent career development plan. Even though sustainable businesses (e.g. Patagonia and Seventh Generation), impact investing firms, and education social enterprises have grown, students seeking impact careers lack the necessary signposting. Instead of replacing career centers, the More Than Money Careers online modules make career centers as effective with impact-driven students as they are with students interested in more traditional career paths. The modules engage students in going from intention to action as they take steps to get clear, get connected, and get hired for jobs that maximize impact and income.

These six Ashoka U – Cordes Innovation Awardees will be recognized by Ron Cordes, the Co-Founder of the Cordes Foundation, in a plenary session on February 23, 2013 at the Ashoka U Exchange to an audience of over 650 participants. Resources to support collaboration and replication of the awarded innovations will be available through the Innovation Award Portal.