Census Methods

Introduction | The Ashoka U Census, a global campaign to aggregate data concerning social innovation and social entrepreneurship programs around the world, was launched in July of 2013. The Census, administered via Qualtrics, consisted of 30 questions in various formats, including: text write-in, multiple choice, multiple selection, and rank ordering. Located in Arlington, Virginia, Ashoka U shared the Census through targeted emails sent to 1,211 faculty, staff, administrators, and students. In addition to emails, Ashoka U engaged about two dozen Ashoka country offices to reach out to the colleges and universities in their country.  Of the total network reached out to, which amounted to approximately 1,500 individuals, 250 responses were received, or a response rate of 16.7%. Of the 250 responses, 221 were non-duplicate, representative, and complete (self-reported) and these 221 answers were used in our data analysis. For comparison, 78 colleges and universities were featured in the 2011 Handbook.

The study has the following characteristics:

  • Cross-Sectional
  • Internet Survey
  • Self-report measures

Ashoka U reached out to and only accepted answers from institutions that met the following criteria:

  • Accredited college or university
  • Four year institution

Furthermore, the Census must have been completed from the perspective of the entire institution, not just a single center, department, faculty, etc. Self reported Census responses were in some cases not confirmed to be campus-wide, so some of the college and university data may be understated (for example, if only the business school responded, then the university would have only reported the programs from the business school).

The following kinds of data were purposefully excluded from the data analysis because they are outside of the scope of the Census data collection methods and were assumed to have a negligible quantity of programs (Ashoka U hopes to include them in future iterations of the Census):

  • Community colleges
  • Non-profit organizations, for-profit organizations, and social enterprises

Some non-accredited colleges, universities, nonprofits, and for-profits submitted Census responses, but these were disregarded.


Previous Ashoka U Handbooks

The data and content featured in the 2011 Handbook was gathered in two phases: Outreach and Research. Initially Ashoka U directly emailed all individuals and institutions featured in the 2008 version of the Handbook to verify the validity of their social innovation offerings and gather any changes. Once the survey portion of the process was complete,  Ashoka U entered into the research phase. For institutions that did not respond to the initial email, Ashoka U did a comprehensive online search to record any updates to the social innovation offerings that were listed in the previous edition.  Any new data relating to institutions that were not previously included in the Handbook was also included the final version of the Handbook.

Published in partnership with Professor Debbi D. Brock, Wingate University, the 2008 Handbook consisted of a listing of institutions that had academic offerings for social entrepreneurship for individuals teaching social entrepreneurship both in the U.S. and internationally. The data was gathered through extensive research of social entrepreneurship academic conferences from the Oxford Colloquium on Social Entrepreneurship to the NYU Stern Annual Conference of Social Entrepreneurs, USASBE, and the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship coupled with online research of courses and faculty teaching in the field. Professor’s Brock wrote the 2004 and 2006 Social Entrepreneurship Teaching Resources Handbook that started with only twenty schools with social entrepreneurship programs. Her experience and knowledge of the field of social entrepreneurship served as the basis for the institutional social entrepreneurship offerings.


Survey Design

The design process for the survey took one month. Census survey questions were carefully constructed so as to measure college and universities in terms of their organizational structure, development strategy and approach, and growth of programs over time. In addition, perspective questions were included to assess the current state of social entrepreneurship and social innovation programs in the Ashoka U ecosystem context, which is framed by the Changemaker Campus program, its core ideas, and selection criteria.The Census also included 3 questions regarding the usability and accuracy of the 2011 Handbook.

The Census consisted of content and questions organized by section, which the user navigated through either on a computer web browser or on their personal mobile device. Results must have been submitted through the online Census form to be considered. Within the Census, respondents were given a link to download a PDF version of the Census questions (excluding the 2011 Handbook feedback questions). See Appendix A for this file. See Appendix B for the full online Census. Additionally, the Census online survey consisted of hyperlinks to an online glossary specifically made for the purpose of educating respondents on specific terms that might have more than one definition or meaning. See Appendix C for the glossary. See Appendix D for the full Census coding which includes all of the questions response sets as well as logic.


Targeted Outreach

On July 2, 2013 the approximately 30 question Qualtrics survey was disseminated to an initial list of 700 global college and university students, faculty, staff, and administrators via personalized emails. The initial outreach list was drawn from, but not limited to, individuals who had attended a previous Ashoka U Exchange (an annual conference for social innovation in higher education), employed at a Changemaker Campuses, purchased the 2011 Handbook, and/or opted in to receive an Ashoka U newsletter. In instances where multiple individuals were identified per institution, Ashoka U developed a hierarchy for determining who to engage. Faculty were always given priority to complete the Census over students, due to the assumption that faculty will have a broader and more in-depth understanding of the campus-wide ecosystem for social entrepreneurship. If multiple faculty were identified at an institution, priority was given to faculty who had attended the Ashoka U Exchange and/or those who Ashoka U had concretely knowledge of their social innovation. If no such faculty member could be identified then all known faculty at the institution were emailed.

On July 11, 2013 an additional group of potential Census respondents were identified through a “Data Drive,” in which a list of 2,000 additional higher education institutions, excluding community colleges, were researched online for the presence or absence of social entrepreneurship or social innovation programs. In these online searches, the terms “social entrepreneurship” and “social innovation” were searched for within the institution’s websites and on search sites. As a result of the Data Drive, 766 additional students, faculty, staff, and administrators were identified for targeted outreach.

In order to ensure that only the most accurate results were received from universities, the decision was made to make it a closed survey. Therefore, only individuals who were explicitly given the Census link by Ashoka U could complete it. If the survey was left open to the general public, Ashoka U would run the risk of receiving multiple entries from various individuals at a single institution and would not be able to verify the validity of the data. By choosing to share the survey with targeted individuals who were known to be either leading social innovation programing or heavily involved in programming, would help to ensure that the most comprehensive results would be collected. However, in order to account for the fact that Ashoka U may not have the right person in the network to complete the survey, a separate form was created to gather recommendations for other faculty and institutions who should be receiving the survey. Ashoka U received 151 responses from this form. Furthermore, 62 of Census responses resulted from initially invited individuals forwarding the Census link to their colleagues.

The 1,211 people who were either sent a survey invitation email, were forwarded such an email from a colleague and filled out the Census, or were nominated to receive an invitation email through the Ashoka U Census website, had the following proportions:

Initial Outreach


Data Drive




Forwarded Invites


Data collection ended on September 2, 2013.


Media and Promotions

The official launch of the Census included the addition of a new section called “2014 Census” on the AshokaU.org website. Upon launch of the Census survey, support opportunities including donations and pre-ordering were also posted on this site. The launch date of all such activities was July 2, 2013. A discount was offered to any Census respondents who opted to answer three in depth questions about the 2011 version of the Ashoka U Handbook. These participants were awarded a $10 promotional code which they could use towards a pre-order of the 2014 Handbook. Pre-orders at a 33% discounted price were sold until August 31, 2013. Data collection for the Census ended on September 2, 2013.

Alongside the email campaign for the Census, a social media campaign was also run, but only in the month of July in which the bulk of Census responses were received. The social media campaign consisted of presenting a link for Census respondents to Tweet: “Do you know about #socent in #higherd? Ashoka U is collecting data all throughout July! Contribute here: http://bit.ly/15ywg0f.” In addition, the following Tweet button was posted on the Ashoka U Census website homepage and nomination page: “Do you know about #socent in #higherd? Ashoka U is collecting data all throughout July! Nominate a colleague here: http://bit.ly/15ywg0f.”

Several teaser infographics were posted as well based on the preliminary data that was collected throughout the month of July. See Appendix E. The teasers were posted roughly one per day during the latter half of the last week of the Census on both the Ashoka U Census website and on Ashoka U’s Facebook page.


Communication to Census Respondents

For the months of July and August, within 48 hours and most often within 24 hours (especially in July), Census respondents were emailed and their cohort from the same institution was email carbon copied with a thank you email from Ashoka U. The thank you email had the main purpose of confirming that the individual who submitted the responses as well as their colleagues (whether or not they were carbon copied on the email) understood the following:

“The [Census response] information [was} complete, correct, and accurately depicts the current state of [institution name] as a whole.”


Data Analysis| Response Set Merging

Upon completion of the Census, respondents along with colleagues from their institution who were emailed during the outreach, were sent a thank you email from Ashoka U. The purpose of the thank you email was to confirm that the individual who submitted the responses as well as their colleagues (whether or not they were carbon copied on the email) understood the following:

“The [Census response] information [was} complete, correct, and accurately depicts the current state of [institution name] as a whole.”

In the case where two separate individuals submitted independent Census responses, the respondents were emailed with attachments of both response sets and asked which set they would like to discard and which to keep.

In situations where the respondents who had submitted two response sets gave permission for us to merge the results, we did the following:

  • Kept the response with either the more directly related position (i.e. director of social innovation center was chosen over faculty; etc.) and higher familiarity level
  • All answers were merged to be all-inclusive for the curricular and co-curricular programs
  • For years, the more senior (see first bullet) person’s answers were maintained
  • For perspective questions, the more relevant person’s answers were considered and the least optimistic choices were chosen
  • Drivers question, senior person’s answers considered only
  • Obstacles, all inclusive


Data Analysis| Data Cleaning

Upon the conclusion of data collection of Census responses, on September 2, 2013, the data were processed using the following methods:

  • Only fully submitted Census responses were considered, all partial responses were disregarded
  • Location names such as city, state, and country were standardized to be consistent and correct


Data Analysis| Preliminary Results

For the initial data analysis, the data were categorized by the following variables and pivot tables were created to do an initial analysis of any apparent trends:

  • United States vs. international
  • Institution enrollment size
  • Number of curricular and co-curricular social innovation offerings
  • Number of graduate and undergraduate courses in social innovation
  • Number of faculty and staff advancing campus-wide social innovation programs


Overview of Census Respondent Data

Who are the Ashoka U Census respondents?

Where is your institution located?
Frequency Percentage
In the United States 144 65.2
Outside the United States 77 34.8
Total 221 100.0


How familiar are you with social innovation activities across your institution?
Frequency Percentage
Not familiar 5 2.3
Somewhat familiar 44 19.9
Very Familiar 172 77.8
Total 221 100.0


Which of the following best describes your primary role at your institution?
Frequency Percentage
Faculty 112 50.7
Administrator 39 17.6
Staff 30 13.6
Student 20 9.0
Student Affairs 4 1.8
Alumnus/Alumna 12 5.4
Social Entrepreneur 2 .9
Other 2 1
Total 221 100.0


Which term is most frequently used at your institution?
Frequency Percentage
Social entrepreneurship 87 39.4
Social innovation 28 12.7
Changemaking 8 3.6
Civic engagement 7 3.2
Service learning 22 10.0
Social justice 12 5.4
Entrepreneurship 4 1.8
Innovation 20 9.0
Other (Social economy, impact entrepreneurship, social enterprise) 17 7.7
None of the above 16 7.2
Total 221 100.0


Student Enrollment Size (Undergraduate and Graduate)
Frequency Percentage
0-3,000 72 32.6
3,000-10,000 52 23.5
10,000-30,000 61 27.6
30,000+ 36 16.3
Total 221 100


Which best describe(s) your institution?
Frequency Percentage
Private college or university (four-year institution) 116 52.5
Public or state college or university (four-year institution) 94 42.5
Neither 11 5.0
Total 221 100.0


Which of the following applies to your institution’s social innovation initiatives?
Campus-wide, reporting directly to the president 38
Campus-wide, reporting directly to the provost 38
Associated with a center or office: 114
Housed in an academic school or department: 92
Associated with student affairs 47
Associated with academic affairs 35


How many faculty and staff at your institution are currently advancing campus-wide programs in social innovation?
Frequency Percentage
0-4 82 37.1
5-9 42 19
10-14 36 16.3
15-19 21 9.5
20-29 16 7.2
30-49 9 4.1
50+ 15 6.8
Total 221 100


How has this number changed in the last five years?
Frequency Percentage
Stayed the same 25 11.7
Increased 153 71.8
I don’t know / Not applicable 35 16.4
Total 213 100.0


How many of the social innovation offerings does your institution have? [Dedicated Courses in Social Innovation, Innovation Labs, Masters Programs, Major Degree, Minor Degree, Certificate Program/Concentration, Study Abroad Programs, Field Study Programs, On-site Conferences, Speaker Series, Competitions, Incubators, Fellowships, Internships, Social Entrepeneur in Residence, Dedicated Courses in Social Innovation]
Frequency Percentage
0-3 70 31.7
12-15 8 3.6
16+ 1 .5
4-7 92 41.6
8-11 50 22.6
Total 221 100.0