Ashoka U - Cordes Innovation Award

The Ashoka U-Cordes Innovation Award is Ashoha U’s top honor for premiere individual programs in social innovation education. It recognizes high impact and highly replicable education innovations. Awardees include pioneering teaching models, co-curricular programming, community partnerships, and research. Since 2011, Ashoka U has honored Awardees during the Exchange. Learn about more about each previous Innovation Awardees here.

2017 Cordes Award “Best of” Categories

We are thrilled to announce the 2017 Cordes Innovation Award winners! They were selected in four specific categories: Academic Learning; Student Pathways; Student Services & Student Affairs; and Community Partnerships.

The 2017 winners are:

About the Winners

Category: Academic Learning

Academic offerings form the core of a student’s higher education experience. In this category, Ashoka U recognizes original models for credit-bearing social innovation and changemaking education.


Global Social Benefit Fellowship – Santa Clara University

The Global Social Benefit Fellowship is a comprehensive 9-month, field-based action research program at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, Santa Clara University, that provides a transformative learning experience for undergraduate students and practical research deliverables to social entrepreneurs in developing countries. After completing a rigorous course in social entrepreneurship and action research in the spring of their junior year, interdisciplinary student teams conduct research working alongside entrepreneurs in the field for eight weeks during the summer, and then finish their projects in a research class in the fall. The heart of action research is value exchange: students have a deep, engaged-learning experience, while entrepreneurs receive research deliverables that help scale social enterprises and attract investment.


Balloon Latinoamérica – Balloon Latinoamérica; Abundance Cycle – College of the Atlantic; Business Speak for the Socially Minded Soul and Empathy Speak for the Compassionate Capitalist – George Mason University; A First-Year Writing Curriculum for Differencemakers – Marquette University


Category: Student Pathways in Social Innovation Education

On campuses rich with social innovation offerings, it can be difficult for students to find and navigate the many opportunities open to them. In this category, Ashoka U recognizes innovative pathways institutions are building to support students’ pursuit of changemaking education.


Post-Graduate Certificate in Social Innovation Management – Amani Institute

Amani Institute helps individuals from all over the world build the skills for careers where they can find both meaning and fulfillment for themselves but also make an impact in the world. Our Post-Graduate Certificate in Social Innovation Management is a Masters-equivalent program that emphasizes learning by doing, training with master practitioners, and unlocking one’s true potential. It’s a hybrid online and in-person experience that takes place over 9 months in social innovation “hub cities” in emerging markets, currently in Nairobi and Sao Paulo, and soon to launch in Bangalore. The program is open to individuals from any nationality, age, and socio-economic class – what they all have in common is a desire to make social impact through their work.


Center for Sport, Peace & Society  – University of Tennessee;  Pathways of Public Service & Civic Engagement Framework and Tool – Stanford University


Category: Student Services & Student Affairs

Student services and student affairs broadly influence the student experience across college and university campuses. In this category, Ashoka U recognizes models for harnessing student services and student affairs to embed social innovation across the student experience and empower all students as changemakers.


Creating Emory –  Emory College

Creating Emory is a collaborative program initiated through Campus Life that introduces all undergraduate new students to issues of integrity, diversity, inclusion, dialogue, and interpersonal violence prevention on campus through new student orientation. This program focuses on the notion of “creating” the Emory community. These three conversations and the performance continue to evolve as a living program, each year continuing to create a better, safer, and more inclusive Emory. The working group is currently exploring how to scale the program across the entire undergraduate experience and across graduate programs.


IGNITE: Community, Creativity, Change – Tulane University


Category: University/Community Partnerships

Partnerships between higher education institutions and community initiatives promise mutually valuable opportunities for learning and growing. In this category, Ashoka U recognizes original approaches to partnership simultaneously accelerating the growth of social innovation in higher education and changemaking efforts in the community.


Common Good First – Glasgow Caledonian University

Common Good First is a digital platform which will identify, showcase and connect community-led social impact projects to each other and to higher education – for research, evaluation, learning and teaching and student engagement. Developed by Glasgow Caledonian University, the project has funding from the European Union and support from the Scottish Government. It will launch in South Africa initially, with a view to a global roll-out in due course. Alongside the mobile-first platform, the consortium of twelve institutions in Europe and South Africa will co-create digital storytelling modules with community partners which will add digital literacy to the project’s outcomes.


Local Economic Development Lab – Simon Fraser University; Impact Linda Vista Initiative – University of San Diego


Evaluation Criteria

The Ashoka U-Cordes Innovation Awardees are selected each year based on the following criteria:

  • Innovation:  The model demonstrates creativity, a deep understanding of the levers and barriers in higher education, and addresses a clear opportunity for advancing an entrepreneurial or socially impactful mindset, skillset, and culture for the university context.
  • ReplicationThe innovation may be easily adapted without losing quality. The innovation should be able to spread with relative ease, increasing efficiency and impact with every replication. Replication may be across different universities, disciplines, or with partner organizations.
  • Maturity: There is evidence of refinement and iteration of the model over time, proving that the innovation is at a stage of maturity to effectively share lessons learned and contribute to the field. It is clear that the idea is no longer in the early ideation phase.

The 2017 Innovation Awardees will present during a keynote awards ceremony at the Ashoka U Exchange on March 2-4, 2017 in Miami, Florida.  Awardees will be featured on a special section of to showcase their innovation and partnership opportunities.

Cordes Hall of Fame

The Ashoka U – Cordes Innovation Award program was founded in 2011 and featured at the first Ashoka U Exchange at Duke University. To date, Ashoka U and the Cordes Foundation have recognized 35 outstanding curricular, co-curricular, research and applied learning innovation in higher education.

Now, Ashoka U wants to answer the question: How have these award-winning models scaled and impacted the field of social innovation education?

In 2015, Ashoka U and the Cordes Foundation launched the Cordes Innovation Award Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame recognizes top Innovation Awardees that have significantly impacted the way colleges and universities embed social innovation into the core fabric of higher education.