Cornell University Changemaker Campus

In Cornell’s 2010-2015 Strategic Plan plan, the university asserted five key objectives, of which one was a renewed commitment to Excellence in Public Engagement.  Relatedly, the university has articulated eleven learning goals, which apply to undergraduates and graduate student learning alike. These goals include, but are not limited to, critical thinking, self-directed learning, engagement in the process of discovery, multicultural competence, and civic engagement. In early 2011, Cornell was recognized by the Carnegie Foundation as one of the country’s leading “Institutions of Community Engagement” because of the depth of its many community research partnerships and the breadth of its civic engagement opportunities for students, faculty, and staff across the university.

Education and research in the areas of social entrepreneurship and innovation are informed by this commitment to public engagement. Hubs for this activity include:

Center for Transformative Action

CTA provides fiscal sponsorship to transformative, non-profit social ventures. These ventures benefit from our mentorship, business services, and the credibility and accountability that come with decades of successful, progressive social change work. CTA also provides educational programs, on and off campus, in the area of social entrepreneurship. About 12% of alumni of our undergraduate course either work for an existing social enterprise or have founded a new social venture. Several have been finalists or winners of the “Big Idea” undergraduate business idea competition at Cornell and Harvard, with one alumna winning a $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the project she developed in our course. Our Finger Lakes Social Entrepreneurship Institute brings together 115 students and practicing social entrepreneurs for further education, networking and relationship building. It creates a welcoming learning environment for aspiring and practicing social change agents across differences in class, race, and formal education.

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Anke Wessels Executive Director

The debilitating polarization of our society has led me to question the effectiveness of an adversarial approach to social activism (and indeed to many relationships in our lives). Transformative Action is an alternative paradigm for social action that moves us beyond complaint, competition and us vs. them thinking. It means approaching conflict and injustice with the intention to speak honestly and listen with empathy, to transform opposition into collaborative, innovative problem solving, and to act pragmatically for sustainable and systemic change. From my perspective, these are the core practices of successful social entrepreneurs.

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Changemaker Campus

Launched in 2008, Ashoka offers the Changemaker Campus designation to leading institutions in social innovation education. These institutions share the vision for higher education to become the next global driver of social change by transforming the educational experience into a world-changing experience.