Beeta Ansari

Beeta is Ashoka U’s Exchange Director, the world’s largest global convening for social entrepreneurship education.

Ashoka U and Cordes Foundation Recognize Global Leaders in Social Innovation Education

“[The Ashoka U-Cordes Innovation Award] casts a broad net and identifies the best and brightest innovations that are really affecting the ability of our students to be changemakers,” according to Ron Cordes, Co-Founder of the Cordes Foundation and founding sponsor of the award.

Over the past six years, the Ashoka-U Cordes Innovation Awards have recognized 35 top educational approaches in social entrepreneurship within higher education. Innovation Awardees are selected based on three criteria:

  • Innovation – Does this model address a clear challenge or opportunity for advancing an entrepreneurial or socially impactful mindset, skillset, and culture for the university context?
  • Replication – Can the model be easily adapted without losing quality and impact?
  • MaturityIs there evidence of refinement and iteration of the model over time?

In 2016, Ashoka U and Cordes Foundation are thrilled to announce the five programs selected to receive the award:

Center for Transformative Action (CTA), Cornell University

The Center for Transformative Action (CTA), affiliated with Cornell University, serves as an incubator and fiscal sponsor for transformative social entrepreneurs with innovative non-profit ventures. In addition to educational programs, CTA provides start-up nonprofit ventures with the legal structure, business services, and mentorship they need to succeed. CTA is led by Executive Director Anke Wessels.

The Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI), Northwestern University

The Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI) a credit-bearing program at Northwestern University that combines rigorous academic training and hands-on international fieldwork. Teams of GESI students partner with local grassroots organizations in six countries to help design and implement community-based development projects. One of the program’s core values is a commitment to diversity and inclusion: in 2015 over 70% of GESI students were from underrepresented groups. GESI is the centerpiece of undergraduate programming led by Patrick Eccles at Northwestern University’s Buffett Institute for Global Studies.

Tulane City Center (TCC), Tulane University

Tulane City Center (TCC) is the community design center of the Tulane School of Architecture. TCC’s work is grounded in the belief that all citizens are impacted by the built environment and have the right to participate in the decisions that shape it. TCC has advanced 80 community-driven projects in collaboration with organizations and groups traditionally underserved by the design professions. Each project begins as a proposal from a non-profit organization and is developed by a design team of Tulane faculty and students, in partnership with the organization and its constituents. Through our partner organizations, these projects contribute to a more equitable New Orleans, while training a new generation of citizen-designers. Maggie Hansen, ASLA, serves as director.

The Social Innovation Pipeline, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

The Social Innovation Pipeline for aspiring changemakers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign combines a two-semester social entrepreneurship course sequence with the opportunity to participate in the iVenture Accelerator, an educational venture accelerator for startups creating social, environmental, cultural, and/or commercial value. The model is broadening the campus-level understanding of entrepreneurship to include social and cultural impact as core elements of innovation. The pipeline is directed and managed by Noah Isserman and Ryan Singh.

Watson University

Watson  is a degree-bearing incubator in Boulder, Colorado for next generation social entrepreneurs. Their curriculum includes master courses from the world’s foremost leaders, entrepreneurs, and thinkers (including a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize), intensive mentorship, and training in the entrepreneurial skills of empathy, creativity, resilience, grit, bootstrapping, team building and fundraising. Most uniquely, Watson students can earn an accredited bachelor’s degree through a collaboration with Lynn University and Naropa University. Watson is led by Founder and Ashoka Fellow Eric Glustrom.

The Ashoka U – Cordes Innovation Awardees will be recognized by Ron Cordes, President of the Cordes Foundation in a morning plenary session on February 26, 2016 during the Ashoka U Exchange in New Orleans to an audience of over 700 leaders in social innovation in higher education. Resources to support collaboration and replication of the awarded innovations will be available in the coming months through Ashoka U’s online Innovation Award Portal.

If you have any questions about the award, please contact Emily Lamb, Exchange Manager at