By Jessamyn Lau
This past weekend I was in North Carolina at Duke for the Ashoka U Exchange. Here’s the blog post I wrote for Ashoka U’s blog on the value the Exchange had for funders:
If you’re a funder working with a university to support them building a social entrepreneurship program here are my top three reasons you should go to Ashoka U’s Exchange next year.
1. Become Informed and Useful
Funding and supporting university based leaders is a whole different ball game to funding social entrepreneurs. There are complexities, challenges and opportunities that come along with a university setting and can be discouraging or even debilitating if you’re not smart about recognising and understanding them. As funders in hands on situations we can be distracting with tangents we *think* might be useful for the university to pursue, or we can be value add -aware of the specific decisions and actions most crucial to establishing a social entrepreneurship (SE) program at a higher education institution. Attending Ashoka U Exchange with representation from multiple stakeholders from the team was a great move for learning together and being uniformly informed.
2. Build Brand
If you’re supporting the creation of a SE program then chances are you want that program to be renowned for excellence in the area of SE education. A reputation is, of course, made up of many components. One of which is building a brand. The Ashoka U network consists of the pioneers of the field as well as the many new campuses serious about embedding SE in to their campus culture and curriculum. The field of SE education is being built here. There is no better place to begin to get your name out there and recognised for what you’re accomplishing. And with this crowd the best way to get your name out there is to share openly and freely ideas, models and successes.
3. Reach Critical Mass
Though the majority of funders will primarily be focused on building SE education at the institution(s) they partner with, ultimately we’re all involved in this because we want to see SE and changemaking embedded in education everywhere. This will only happen as a critical mass of universities lead the way in establishing excellent SE programs, demonstrating that the workplace and the world needs more students to be better prepared to solve problems. There are already many universities with SE programs and curricula, but until now their efforts have been, for the most part, independent of each other. With Ashoka U’s ability to create a network, recognise elements of excellence, and highlight effective campus programs they are building a movement.
Full disclosure: I briefly worked with the Ashoka U team prior to joining the Peery Foundation.