Creating Social Value Blog / Youth Entrepreneurship

Activating Social Innovation Through Badging

by Janai Mungalsingh

students working on Social Innovation Badge

I’m happy to report that the next generation is ready to start creating innovative solutions for the future. For the past five years, I’ve developed a holistic curriculum approach to teaching entrepreneurship in Babson’s Summer Study for High School Students. I have listened firsthand to the reasons young people from around the world believe entrepreneurship can shape their careers and communities. This incoming class of Generation Z wants to not only witness, but act on, social progress. For the 2018 Summer Study class, we reinforced that doing something good can drive a thriving business by offering a Social Innovation Badge.


Integrating Career Readiness into Cocurricular Learning Opportunities

Digital Badging is a popular trend in education right now, but how would badging look like in a way that’s unique to Babson College? During a design thinking challenge among Babson Centers and Institutes, the idea emerged of earning a badge as a dynamic way for undergrads to engage with and access campus centers and institutes, connecting academics and real world experience. Summer Study volunteered to pilot the idea. Since Youth Programs resides within The Lewis Institute, offering an elective Social Innovation Badge reflected what we did best.

Babson College has already begun to integrate core career readiness competences defined by The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), and Summer Study already incorporates NACE competencies within all cocurricular activities. In piloting a Social Innovation Badge in Summer Study, we decided to further reflect NACE competencies in the required activities and portfolio of badge requirements.


Global Problems, Personal Solutions

Summer Study’s Social Innovation Badge is rooted in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), and students were asked to reflect on ways these global problems affect them personally. We focused on the UN SDGs because things like the availability of water, or quality education, are the big problems that shape the world. Innovation and profit don’t have to be at odds. Instead, Summer Study teaches young people can shape their financial future by staking a claim in innovation solutions for these challenges.

Education through innovation is exactly why young people like Eisha, a high school student from Lahore, Pakistan, come to Summer Study. “I’m very passionate about education and women’s empowerment,” said Eisha, “I want to create a curriculum for career counseling for underprivileged schools in Pakistan.” Eisha’s efforts for her Social Innovation Solution venture, Sync City, focused on the UN SDGs of Gender Equality (Goal 5) and Quality Education (Goal 4).


How Do You Measure Social Innovation?

One of the challenges in designing the Social Innovation Badge was determining what metrics to capture as students moved through their Social Innovation Solutions. We found many Summer Study students were already engaged in entrepreneurial efforts. Some high schoolers were starting from scratch, while others, like Eisha’s Sync City, were active ventures that hosted events promoting their mission. In order to meet each student wherever they were on their journey, the Social Innovation Badge focused on helping students define “action steps” through four phases:

  1. Investigate the Landscape: Peer meetings introduce students the UN SDGs. Students choose one or more goals and dive in deeper. Our goal is for students to fall in love with the problem.
  2. Experiential Learning: Many of life’s biggest lessons happen outside the classroom. Students attend curated activities, meet entrepreneurs at site visits, and conduct personal research to deepen their knowledge on relevant topics. This may look different for each student depending where they are in the venture process.
  3. Transformative Learning: Personal experience is an integral part of the cognitive learning process. Here students will report on their findings, think critically on how their discoveries might transform the venture idea or opportunity.
  4. Digital Portfolio: To move their Social Innovation Solution forward, it’s vital for students to be able to clearly communicate their process and what their venture hopes to accomplish. This is captured in a Digital Portfolio and outlined next steps for their journey.


Creating Intentional Pathways for Every Educational Journey

The four weeks our Summer Study high school students are here each year are some of my favorite to observe. Just as participants learn to connect passion to purpose, I continue to seek new ideas to engage each cohort of learners that comes through our doors. Youth Programming plays an important role in helping higher education adapt to a generation of digital natives who see personalized pathways as the norm. Digital Badges reflect learning being measured, rather than hours in the classroom. Badging can empower future undergrads to learn how to engage personal networks and resources, like campus Centers and Institutes, to their fullest force.

The piloted Summer Study Social Innovation Badge powered by The Lewis Institute was awarded to 22 students from 10 countries around the globe. These young social innovators will each return to the communities equipped with a map of their making, and the next action steps needed to traverse their educational journey.


Read more the Social Innovation Badge and what Learning in Action looks like at Babson Summer Study.