Marina Kim

Marina co-founded and leads Ashoka U, working with campuses to embed social innovation as an educational focus and core value of the university culture.

Q&A: Ron Cordes on the Ashoka U – Cordes Innovation Awards

Along with his wife Marty, Ron Cordes is the Co-Founder of the Cordes Foundation. He is also a Regent of the University of the Pacific, as well as Chairman of the Advisory Board for the university’s Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship. With a long track record in the investment industry, Ron speaks and writes extensively in the field of impact investing, and he chairs the Executive Committee for ImpactAssets, a new initiative to catalyze capital for impact investments.

With a focus on impact, it is no surprise that the Cordes Foundation has partnered with Ashoka U to co-develop the “Ashoka U – Cordes Innovation Awards.” Launched as an initiative in February 2011, Ashoka U aims to select the most innovative educational approaches in social entrepreneurship education. Examples of the 2011 finalists include the Brigham Young University On Campus Internship Class which engages up to twelve student teams each semester to work with social entrepreneurs to the Transformative Acton’s Institute curriculum which trains thousands of students on more than 20 campuses in 40 countries critical qualities such as resilience, creativity, and social and emotional intelligence.

With the leadership of the Cordes Foundation, the Ashoka U – Cordes Innovation Award will not only seek out top innovations, but it will also focus on impact by supporting the adaptation of award winner innovations by other colleges and universities to help accelerate the growth of the field of social entrepreneurship.

Here, Ron Cordes shares his vision for the Ashoka U – Cordes Innovation Award.

Q: How long have you been involved in social entrepreneurship education?

A: I was introduced to social entrepreneurship through the newly-formed Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship University of the Pacific, where I joined as a founding partner and Chair the Advisory Board. It was hard not to notice the social conscience of the Gen Y/millennial generation, and students at UOP had an amazing passion and desire to change the world. In partnership with the Center’s Director Jerry Hildebrand, we saw a huge opportunity to channel this energy and to equip students to be effective change agents – both while in college and after they graduate. At UOP, the team initially focused on experiential opportunities for students to engage with social enterprises, both locally and globally. The Center has operated a summer ambassador program for the last 6 years. More recently, they added a curriculum and certificate program in Social Entrepreneurship.

Q: Why are you partnering with Ashoka U to take the Innovation Awards to the next level?

A: Through my work at UOP, I began to recognize that the social enterprise phenomenon was occurring at dozens of colleges and universities across the US, but there was no coordination among the campuses to share best practices in this emerging field. When Ashoka stepped into a leadership role with the creation of Ashoka U, it seemed like the ideal vehicle to create a new collaborative platform.

So we became an early supporter of the Ashoka U Exchange and have been proud to support the conference to bring together leaders in social entrepreneurship education in 2010, 2011, and now again in 2012. When I attended the first summit in 2010, I was overwhelmed by the incredible interest and energy from students, faculty and administration to advance social enterprise at their institutions and how valuable it was to bring people together to move the field forward collectively.

At UOP, we think of the Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship as a social enterprise, and we are committed to applying the same level of innovation, and focus on results, with respect to our programs as social entrepreneurs who are doing work on the ground to solve social problems. This is why the Innovation Award is so resonant because it reflects the great work that is being done at the university level, and the promise of innovators in higher education as the drivers of high impact programs.

Q: What do you think the world will look like if all campuses have strong, thriving social entrepreneurship programs?

A: The world is coming to recognize that we are not going to be able to solve our biggest and most important problems using the same solutions that have been tried over the past hundred years. We are going to rely on this next generation of leadership to propel us forward – and that next generation is now being equipped at colleges and universities around the country and around the world.

It could be truly groundbreaking for thousands of young leaders to be inspired and equipped at colleges and universities, both in the US and around to world, and to find new ways to connect the social enterprise space in higher education to move forward with new innovative initiatives.