Ashoka U is an initiative of Ashoka, which is the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurship. Ashoka envisions a world where everyone is a changemaker. Every year, Ashoka U puts on a conference known as the Ashoka U Exchange. Each year, a changemaker campus of Ashoka hosts the Exchange where hundreds of innovators in higher education are reimagining how to utilize colleges and universities to make social impact. Ashoka U believes that all colleges can reveal student potential to be lifelong changemakers. The Ashoka U Exchange, February 25-27, 2016, was hosted by Tulane University in New Orleans, LA, where attendees were devoted to advancing and engaging in key conversations around a range of topics to promote social impact.
Elizabeth Benefield, Social Entrepreneurship Program Manager for the Institute for Nonprofits, attended the Ashoka U Exchange this past February along with Graduate Assistant, Jackie Parker. Benefield explained that social impact is important because as educators, it is important to recognize that students not only pursue work lives, but also need a purposeful career path. “We should try to respond with educational offerings allowing students to think about their purpose in every discipline. What matters is that you consider your passion and purpose to change the world, which goes right along with Ashoka’s idea that every person can be a changemaker.”
Jackie Parker explained that she really learned a lot about how to apply skills and ideas she learned from the Exchange to her work as a graduate student, as well as to her job at the Institute. “Each session gave different perspectives on how to make social impact, but one of my favorites was a session given by Brigham Young University on how to create curriculum. I really did learn a lot about how I could create curriculum for myself and other students, and how that makes a social impact.”
Ashoka U currently has 30 Changemaker Campuses. Benefield remarked that through attending the Ashoka U Exchange, she realized that N.C. State is rich in resources and creating opportunities for students. N.C. State is doing well in generating vision for social innovation and social entrepreneurship, and through attending the Ashoka U Exchange, it became evident that we are a part of a community that is interested in what N.C. State is doing to promote social impact.
One take-away that Jackie Parker received from attending the Ashoka U Exchange were different perspectives on how to help N.C. State students become changemakers, and how to become more involved with social entrepreneurship. This requires a cultural shift from a discipline focus on what students are seeking to do to a focus on what students are seeking to be. With a social impact philosophy, every student has the power, talent, and ability to do something important.
We are so excited and honored to be involved with Ashoka U and the Ashoka U Exchange. Ashoka is truly making an impact on how to promote social entrepreneurship, as well as creating a community where social impact is key. The Institute for Nonprofits is proud to be part of this community.