Emily Lamb

Emily manages the Changemaker Campus network, a collective of post-secondary institutions dedicated to making changemaking a norm in higher education.

Announcing Six Working Across Differences Fund Grantees

Washington, DC, August 27, 2019 – Ashoka U has selected six institutions to receive the Working Across Differences Fund grant, supported by the Fetzer Institute.

The Working Across Differences Fund provides one-year grants to post-secondary institutions for creative and innovative campus-wide initiatives that accelerate the creation, development, and/or application of methodologies that build bridges across difference.

The selected institutions are CQUniversity, Duke University, Miami Dade College, North Central College, Portland State University, and the University of California, San Diego.

The Fund was created in response to the deep-seated chasms experienced across today’s society. Ashoka U believes that changemakers, now more than ever, must be equipped with the mindsets and skillsets to navigate the tensions between diverging perspectives and work in collaborative ways in order to find pathways to positive social impact.

This grant comes at a time when colleges and universities are under fire for being hotbeds of society’s most polarizing issues. But what about the examples of campuses proactively addressing the reality of differences and equipping students, educators, and administrators with the skills and mindsets necessary to navigate diverging perspectives? This is exactly what Working Across Differences grantees aim to do throughout the next year.

The six funded projects uncover opportunities for navigating the tensions between diverging perspectives and work in collaborative ways in order to find pathways for positive social impact.

“We are so impressed and excited by each of the grantees,” said Ashoka U Co-Founder and Executive Director Marina Kim. “Their projects are all learning labs that will unpack what it takes to shift campus cultures for the greater good. This is what Ashoka U is about, and we hope this grant serves as an invitation for more campuses to follow in these grantee’s footsteps.”

The grant cycle will end in August 2020. Throughout the next year, recipients will meet quarterly to share learnings and better understand ways of bridging differences across colleges and universities. In an effort to spread learnings and practices to a global audience, grantees will also contribute to the “Working Across Differences” blog series which will launch in October 2019 and co-develop a one-day public “Working Across Differences” track at the 2020 Ashoka U Exchange in Minneapolis, MN on April 16-18, 2019.

This grant opportunity was offered specifically to Ashoka U Changemaker Campuses. Learn more about Changemaker Campus here.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive updates from Ashoka U and these grantees throughout the next year as we follow their process for shifting practices and culture on campus. To learn more, contact Emily Lamb at elamb@ashoka.org.


About the Grantees:

The “Social Innovation Lens with an Aboriginal Eye” project at CQUniversity in Australia aims to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous staff and students through dialogue, education, and celebration of Indigenous Australians as social innovators. The project will conduct Indigenous-led workshops hosted at five CQUniversity campuses for faculty, staff, and students as well provide a toolkit that participants can use in their own contexts. As a result of the project, CQUniversity hopes to: provide a safe space for discussion; raise awareness of the knowledge and historical influence of Indigenous ways in social innovations; break down epistemic views and foster empathy; and develop a mindset whereby collaborating across diverse cultures is a norm.

“Citizen Suppers” at Duke University in the United States aims to catalyze an institutional norm of deliberative, purposeful, and civil culture among students and beyond. This project will feature a deliberative dialogue series on campus and in the community throughout the academic calendar specifically targeted toward first-year students. The first dinner conversation for all incoming students will take place during new student orientation. Student leaders will be trained as dialogue leads to host the conversations. Amongst others, desired project outcomes include students equipped with a) skills needed to engage in positive discourse and shared understanding of problems with those of divergent perspectives and b) with stronger connections and engagement with local community partners on issues they care about. 

Located in the United States, Miami Dade College’s project aims to embed and instill institution-wide norms for faculty skillsets and mindsets related to working across differences. First, a select group of faculties will be trained and certified with approaches for facilitating difficult dialogues. Then, this cohort will lead the development of Miami Dade College-specific professional development workshops for faculty and staff across the institution. Some of the anticipated project outcomes include: faculty and staff training in dialogic pedagogy, faculty having implemented components of it into their curriculum, and ultimately classes that are effectively facilitated to be increasingly safe spaces for dialogue across divisive and difficult topics.

The “Reclaiming Civility Project” at North Central College in the United States aims to foster a cohesive understanding and collective approach across campus to address polarizing topics or events. The project will include institution-wide “working across differences” training for faculty, staff, students, and administrators. Those trained will become ambassadors of dialogue across differences on campus and positioned to facilitate campus-wide discussions in a variety of programs. Initial training participants will form an implementation advisory board, which will plan campus-wide dialogues with student facilitators, and also design a shorter training module designed to prepare students to communicate constructively across differences. Amongst others, outcomes are intended to include: individuals trained, a community action plan for dialogues, and ultimately, deeper intercampus connections across campus and community.

The “Call-In Culture” project at Portland State University (PSU) in the United States aims to shift campus culture at PSU from calling-out (public denunciation) to calling-in (addressing missteps, gaps, and assumptions and creating spaces for relationships and transformation), and to develop a model by which other campuses might implement a similar culture change. The project will seek to understand and address the cultural norms on campus that disincentivize dialogue across differences. This project will first assess the call-out culture on campus, then activate campus decision-makers through a full-day summit about the topic as it relates to PSU, and finally evaluate the potential for long-term culture shifts within the institution. As a result of the project, it is anticipated that attendees will leave the session with a change plan, and that coaching and monitoring against indicators will support implementation. 

The “Voices for Change” series at University of California, San Diego in the United States aims to uplift and celebrate a new standard for student leadership that encourages engagement with others who hold diverging perspectives. The project will train student leaders as Dialogue Ambassadors. Once trained, these Ambassadors will host dialogue circles throughout the academic year for all students, faculty, staff, and community members on relevant political issues as the United States enters the 2020 election cycle. As a result of this project, desired outcomes include: increased comfort in communicating with others and increased understanding of differing perspectives; increased abilities to manage feelings when faced with differing perspectives; and an increased sense of connection across campus and community. 


About Ashoka U

Ashoka U is the higher education initiative of Ashoka – the world’s largest community of changemakers. Since 2008, Ashoka U has worked with more than 500 colleges and universities to help build a world where everyone is a changemaker. 

About Changemaker Campus

Changemaker Campus is a community of leaders and institutions that work collectively to make social innovation and changemaking a new norm in higher education and beyond. There are currently approximately 45 campuses in the network across 10 countries. 

About the Fetzer Institute

With a mission to help build the spiritual foundation for a loving world, the Fetzer Institute supports work in a variety of areas, including as the health of our democracy, the landscape of spirituality in society, and education. Learn more at www.fetzer.org.