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New Center for Social Innovation to open

By Edith Allard

Contributing Writer

New, hands-on learning experiences will soon be offered for UNH students interested in using their careers as a source for social good.

That’s thanks to the new Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise, which will officially open on Nov. 20.

The Center is a joint venture by the Paul College and the Carsey School of Public Policy, and it will be co-directed by Carsey staff member Yusi Turell and Paul College professor Fiona Wilson.

“The Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise[’s] [mission is] to inspire and support students who are interested in building lasting solutions to our world’s toughest social and environmental problems,” said Turell and Wilson in a collaboratively written email.

The Center does help to support faculty members who teach courses related to social innovation, but the main focus is for the development of experiential learning opportunities for students. For example, the eight-week summer Social Innovation Internship will now fall under this new center, but even more opportunities will be available for future semesters. New internships and projects for socially minded organizations, as well as opportunities to visit socially innovative companies, are all in the works.

Another project the Center wants to pursue is a variety of Social Innovation Career Forums, featuring many different companies or organizations focused on one key problem, such as climate change. These forums will highlight the range of disciplines that can be used to solve the same issue.

According to a press release, more than only students will be impacted from the teachings of the new center. Entrepreneurs, policymaking professionals and UNH scholars will all benefit from understanding exactly how business and innovation can be used to solve social or environmental problems.

“By exposing future and current policymaking professionals to these tools, we will improve their practice,” said Carsey School of Public Policy Director Michael Ettlinger in the press release. “Likewise, social entrepreneurs will benefit from a deeper understanding of the societal and policy context of their enterprises.”

In addition to the opening of the Center, Nov. 20 also marks the concluding day of the Social Venture Innovation Challenge, where the winning ideas for a socially minded company will be announced. Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of Stonyfield farm, will be keynoting for the event, which is organized by the Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise.

Turell and Wilson felt there was “no better way to celebrate the growth and potential of UNH’s social innovation activities” than by holding the official opening of the center on that day.

Ultimately, the co-directors of the Center hope to help students “find applied opportunities to build their change-making skills.” Within the next few months, more of these kinds of opportunities will begin to become available.

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