MCSE to Host Third Innovation Symposium

By Day Robins

The Middlebury Center for Social Entrepreneurship (MCSE) will host its third annual symposium, titled “Social Entrepreneurship and The Future of Education,” on Jan. 23-24 to celebrate improvements and innovations in education around the world.

Two leaders in the field of social innovation, keynote speaker New York Times “Fixes” columnist David Bornstein and Shabana Basij-Rasik ’11, will focus their remarks on the impact of improvements in education on the economy, on improving social injustices and on our lives. The symposium will shine a light on the successes educators are having around the world at making positive social change.

“It’s a time of great challenge for education, for a whole lot of reasons,” Professor of Economics and MCSE Director Jon Isham said. “But, what social entrepreneurs are showing is that with technology and with decentralized approaches built around the students’ needs, education can rise to the challenge. That’s what we want to promote.”

Basij-Rasik, president and co-founder of School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA), will kick off the symposium with a talk titled, “Dare to Educate Afghan Women” on Thursday, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. in Mead Chapel. As a social entrepreneur, Basij-Rasik took on the mission to empower Afghan women and girls. SOLA has effectively provided exceptional Afghan women with the tools necessary to further their education, and is an institution which marks significant progress in possibly the most challenging place to promote primary education. Basij-Rasik, who was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan, has been inspired by her own educational experience, during which she risked the deadly consequences of dressing as a boy in order to attend school as a child.

Bornstein, the leading journalist and writer in the realm of solutions-journalism, will give the symposium’s keynote speech titled “Solutions Journalism: Scholarship in Real Time,” at 7:30 p.m. on Friday Jan. 24 in McCullough. As co-author of the New York Times “Fixes” column, Bornstein explores solutions to major social problems with a “cutting edge” approach to journalism, which focuses on documenting people who are finding solutions rather than reporting on problems. Bornstein has written two books, “Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know,” and “How To Change The World”’; he is currently working on his third.

“It’s hard to conceptualize,” said Gaby Fuentes ’16, a member of this year’s MCSE fellowship cohort and of Isham’s Winter Term class, “Social Entrepreneurship in the Liberal Arts.” “It’s hard to grapple with sometimes. And I think a lot of people are confused about what exactly social entrepreneurship is.

Most of Fuentes’ role in preparing for the symposium will be providing input via in-class discussions.

“The symposium is a way to capture the energy around the idea of social entrepreneurship in the liberal arts,” Isham said, adding that over his years at the College, he has observed that “conferences designed a certain way can really jumpstart ideas on this campus.”

The week of the symposium will also feature an array of interactive activities such as workshops and Google Hangouts with leaders in the field of social innovation.

“It’s not a symposium where you’re talked at,” Isham said. “The year’s programming will allow students to contribute and participate.”

Leaders from organizations such as Ashoka, Clinton Global Initiative, and Educate! in Uganda will be leading interactive workshops that will make students more aware of current student and alumni work in educational innovations around the world.

Jihad Hajjouji ’14 will lead a workshop titled “Developing a Theory of Change: a Case from Morocco.

“The workshop will focus on thinking process of how an organization gets to create the intended impact through its activities,” Jihad said. “I will be using my own project, called the National Entrepreneurial Camp, as a case study.”

In addition to Hajjouji, Jeff Digel ’78, Elsa Palanza ’01 and Angelica Towne ’08, who made Forbes’ 2014 list of “30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs,” will also lead workshops on campus on the January 24th. All events are open to the public.

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