Universities Driving Global Change

June 2011

In February, Duke and Ashoka U hosted a national conference on social entrepreneurship education. It was a wonderful weekend with over 300 participants representing 70 universities and 10 countries.

Included in the weekend’s activities was a TEDx event that was open to the public. The theme was “Universities Driving Global Change” and the TEDxAshokaU drew in 750 attendees (450 in person, another 300 on the livestream). Speakers included a range of academic leaders, nonprofit and for-profit social entrepreneurs, and students. All of the talks were inspirational (and we encourage you to watch them all at the TEDx Talks youtube site!), but here are a few of our favorite moments:

Kimberly Jenkins, Senior Advisor to the President and Provost for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Duke University:

“Today I am proud to work at another fabulous institution, Duke University, with another of the world’s leading visionaries, Greg Dees, and the team at CASE.  Together, we are doing all we can to help educate the next generation of entrepreneurs to tackle the largest, most pressing needs of the world.”

Kimberly also outlined 3 principles to drive entrepreneurs:

  1. clearly define the most pressing needs;
  2. engage stakeholders in findings solutions to their problems (want to change the world?, hit the ground listening); and,
  3. do all with an eye to the bottom-line, whether that is economic, social, environmental, etc – define it, measure it, communicate it. (watch video)

Iman Bibars, co-founder of The Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women, offered an interesting perspective from Cairo:

“Yes, we’ve had a revolution; yes, we’ll have democracy, but the problems won’t go away. The role of universities is to challenge and inspire and create community. We need universities to live up to our young people.” (watch video)

Parag Gupta, founder of Waste Ventures:

“Universities are good for convening troublemakers, providing the resources to fail and opportunities for global collaboration.  Allow students to build quickly, have it fail fast, rinse and repeat.” (watch video)

Maya Ajmera, founder of the Global Fund for Children, had a vision while she was a student at Duke University. She wanted to invest small amounts of capital in to worthwhile grassroots ventures around the world. That vision became a reality when she founded the Global Fund for Children and she credited Duke for playing a part in this success because “they nourished me during the difficult times.” Maya also highlighted the power of universities:

“With their networks and resources, universities can provide mentorship, funding, space to think, learn, and acquire leadership.” She told the students to “Dream big, think big, use the resources around you because they are very powerful.” (watch video)

Regina Duran, Arizona State University student:

“When universities invest in students they are saying, ‘I believe in you – in your dream to change the world’.” (watch video)

Derek Ellerman, co-founder of the Polaris Project:

“Transformative change is beginning to happen, in part because universities are ecosystems for social change and provide the space for real world learning, social action, skills training, networks, curriculum … to empower the next generation of social entrepreneurs.” (watch video)

Holden Thorp & Buck Goldstein, University of North Carolina:

“Universities find resources, make long-term commitments to issues, and bring people together from all disciplines to focus on global issues.” (watch video)

One of the crowd favorites was CASE’s own Advisory Council member, Kevin Trapani, founder, President and CEO of The Redwoods Group. Kevin delivered a rousing call to action about “profit, values, moral courage, and the role of the university to link that all together.” In his words:

Business in a transformational power … and as a formative element of teaching business leadership, we need to teach that business can and must be a powerful force for positive social good.

At the end of the day, all profits are not created equal, profits that carry a social benefit are better.

I want us to change how we teach business leadership … I want all business to be taught this way … (1) have a socially beneficial mission; (2) you must have sustainable profitability (you gotta do what you gotta do, before you get to do what you want); (3) conservative financial practices; (4) progressive employment practices (put employees first and encourage them to think and serve externally).

So, I would say to you tonight … why don’t we change from an MBA to an MMC – Masters in Moral Courage?

Watch Kevin’s entire talk below:

All of the TEDxAshokaU talks showcased the power of universities to equip tomorrow’s leaders with the skills to change the world – and we, of course, agree!

As CASE approaches our 10 year anniversary in the Fall, we are excited to continue on our quest to “prepare current and emerging leaders, and the organizations that support them, to achieve real and lasting social change.”