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Transforming higher education from local to global: Social Entrepreneurship Conference at Brown University


Providence, RI - The Ashoka U Exchange, a global conference for social entrepreneurship in higher education will take place at Brown University, on February 20-22, 2014. The conference will bring together a total of 650 faculty, staff, administrators, and students from 150 colleges and universities representing 30 countries and social entrepreneurs from around the world to discuss their vision for “The New Scholar” equipped to create innovative solutions for the world’s most pressing problems.

“We are not just raising questions about new trends in teaching and research for social innovation and entrepreneurship. We are asking how to integrate positive community impact with teaching and research,” stated Marina Kim, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Ashoka U.

The opening plenary panel on Thursday, February 20 will bring together Angel Taveras, Mayor of Providence, with Jonathan Greenblatt, Director, White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, Christina Paxson, President of Brown University, and Diana Wells, President of Ashoka and a Brown Board of Trustee member to discuss creating and nurturing a collaborative ecosystem between the university and the community.

“At Brown, the spirit that drives social innovation runs deep,” said Brown University President Christina Paxson.  “We are thrilled to host this year’s Ashoka U gathering and to welcome participants from around the globe to Providence and the Brown campus for intensive discussions about the best ways to promote and sustain social innovation.”

On Friday, February 21, six TED-style keynote speakers will discuss “Tomorrow’s Talent” for global social impact. Among them is Alan Harlam, Director of the Social Innovation Initiative at Brown, who will focus his talk on re-centering higher education. Three Ashoka Fellows, recognized as leading social entrepreneurs, will also speak: Aaron Hurst, CEO of Imperative, will discuss a new emerging purpose economy. Rafael Alvarez, Founder and CEO of Genesys Works, will shed light on bridging the gap between education and business. David Castro, President and CEO of I-LEAD, will ponder the real identity of a university. This discussion reflects a partnership on nationwide 21st century talent development led by Accenture and Ashoka.  

The 2014 Ashoka U Exchange focuses on global and local innovation, bringing together participants from over 30 countries, including Ashoka Fellows Susan Steinman, Founder & CEO of the Workplace Dignity Institute and Director of the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Social Economy at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa, and Patrick Struebi, Founder & CEO of Fairtrasa in Mexico who is currently a Yale World Fellow. Participants will visit three sites in Providence and learn about local approaches to social innovation. These sites include the Capital Good Fund, the TRI-Lab at Brown, and HOPE (Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere), a community program of the Swearer Center for Public Service.

The Ashoka U-Cordes Innovation Awards Ceremony, on Friday, February 21, will recognize impactful, replicable and innovative approaches to education, like Brown’s Social Innovation Fellowship led by Lizzie Pollock, Assistant Director of Social Entrepreneurship and MJ Kaplan of Adjunct Professor of Public Policy. Other awardees include Echoing Green’s Work on Purpose , which helps young people find their place in the ecosystem of social impact work, and CityStudio Vancouver , which invites students to co-create solutions with city government officials. 

The closing panel on Saturday, February 22, sponsored by Western Union, will feature three Ashoka U Changemaker Campus university presidents, including Dr. Kerry Murphy Healy, President of Babson College, the world’s #1 institution for entrepreneurship education; Daron Collins, President of College of the Atlantic, the first college to become carbon neutral and a leader in sustainability; and Nick Petford, Vice Chancellor of the University of Northampton, a global leader in student employability and social enterprise; moderated by a student leader from Brown University, Brett Anders, Class of ’14.

“We are delighted to be sponsoring the Ashoka U Exchange,” said Brian Harris, Chief Product and Marketing Officer, Western Union Business Solutions. “Innovation, education and collaboration are key to breaking down the obstacles that prevent meaningful, positive social change. The work Ashoka and its partners do is vital to developing the next generation of social entrepreneurs and we are honored to be able to participate in this year’s Exchange.”

The Ashoka U Exchange seeks to spread ideas for the future of higher education that emerge from a dynamic global network of social entrepreneurs, educators, philanthropists, corporate leaders and best practices from Changemaker Campuses. Ashoka U’s Changemaker Campus is a designation for institutions that have embedded social innovation as a core value. Brown University is one of 24 higher education institutions recognized as leaders of social innovation in higher education.

About Brown University

An Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, Brown University’s open curriculum attracts students with the initiative and skill to craft their own vision of an undergraduate education, at an institution with a deeply embedded culture of social responsibility. For over 25 years, the Swearer Center for Public Service has served as a hub for social impact and innovation at Brown, supporting the work of student leaders through strong community partnerships and personalized advising. The Social Innovation Initiative, a key program of the Center, provides opportunities for students to pursue their passions through cross-disciplinary courses, student-led initiatives, new venture support, and connections to jobs, internships, and other opportunities to apply learning. 

About Ashoka U

Ashoka U is the university division of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public. Founded in 1981, Ashoka has identified 3,000 leading social entrepreneurs as Ashoka Fellows in 70 countries. Building on Ashoka’s vision for a world where Everyone is a Changemaker, Ashoka U fosters a culture of social innovation in higher education by working with colleges and universities to help break down barriers to institutional change. The Ashoka U global network of 150 colleges and universities advances an education that develops interdisciplinary, entrepreneurial, and solutions-oriented skills.



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