Creating Social Value Blog / Social Innovation

Social Innovation Has No Borders

When we first started The Lewis Institute, Cheryl and I would joke around and tell people that “we’re an institute without walls”. This was really just our way of signifying that we are boundary spanners who are open to working and partnering with anyone, anywhere. This year, more than ever, we have embodied that statement not just metaphorically, but physically.

Over the last six years, The Lewis Institute has been proud to work with undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, corporate and non-profit partners, government officials, and thought leaders of all kinds. As a result of cultivating all of those relationships, we’ve been lucky to develop a larger global reach and spread Babson’s mission of creating economic and social value simultaneously, not sequentially, beyond the U.S. Here are a few of the journeys 2015 has seen:

In April, as part of Babson Connect, Cheryl traveled with President Healey to Colombia to present the inaugural Lewis Institute Community Changemaker Award to Catalina Escobar, an Ashoka Changemaker who started the JuanFe Foundation to help teenage mothers in Cartagena lift themselves out of poverty and provide viable futures for themselves and their children. Cheryl was able to see the impact that JuanFe is making on the ground, and continues to partner with Catalina to amplify their work.

In June, Sarah and Janai from our Youth Entrepreneurship team traveled to Karatu, Tanzania, as part of the BELA International program to work with nearly 100 high school students at The Ganako Secondary School. Undergraduate and graduate students, staff, and alumni taught the basics of Babson’s methodology of Entrepreneurial Thought and Action® (ET&A) to the next generation of changemakers. In January, the BELA team will return to Karatu to enhance the existing program by working with both students and their teachers from schools across Tanzania.

In November, Cheryl and I traveled to Belgium as part of the first Women2Women Belgium Leadership in Action program where we taught ET&A to 60 young women, helping them realize that their ideas are worthy, actionable, and viable. Over the five-day period, participants enhanced their leadership skills and, together in groups, were challenged to utilize ET&A to pitch a commitment for action to address a critical challenge in their communities. Each worked through the idea of developing and implementing a collaborative community engagement action plan back home. We have continued to work with these amazing leaders since leaving Belgium, and have “gifted” resources to keep their ideas moving forward. We’re excited to see their progress during our next check-in webinar with them on December 16th!

And now, as I write, Cheryl is on the road again – this time to China. She’s partnering with the head of the Design for Social Innovation program at School of Visual Arts (and Senior Fellow in Social Innovation), Cheryl Heller. Together, they are presenting a lecture on Design, Entrepreneurship, and Social Innovation at Tongji University in Shanghai, and then doing a workshop at Hunan Normal University in Changsha to help facilitate students in co-creating, with residents, a revitalized community that has been eclipsed by a spurt of new development adjacent to it. The workshop will include community mapping, ethnographic research, idea development, and prototyping.

It’s always energizing here at The Lewis Institute, and this year was certainly no exception. I’m thrilled with the impact we’ve made, the relationships we’ve engaged here and overseas, and can’t wait to see what next year brings!