Giving Compass' Take:

• The authors explore how educators can make a shift from social entrepreneurship education to systems change-led social innovation education by redesigning programs and curriculum. 

• How will systems change education inspire students to potentially pursue careers in the social sector? 

• Read more about systems change and social innovation. 

Systems change—the idea that we can design interventions that fundamentally reshape social or environmental systems that perpetuate injustice or negative results—continues to gain interest across the social sector.

Over the last few decades, universities, business schools, and community-based learning programs have embraced social entrepreneurship and innovation education. More and more programs offer training programs, accelerators, business plan competitions, and funding as a means of helping hopeful change agents translate their good intentions into impact.

The good news is that growing interest in systems change may be the catalyst social entrepreneurship and innovation education needs to reach its potential. Reorienting the field toward systems change goals requires that we shift both the content and the metrics of success of our educational offerings.

So where to start? Systems-oriented education begins by asking students to analyze their current understanding of an issue, including surfacing and addressing the underlying mental models (such as relationships to power and privilege) that learners, educators, and innovators hold. At the same time, we need to rethink the systems in which we teach, including who is sitting in and teaching in our classrooms.

To move from more mainstream social entrepreneurship and social innovation education toward systems-led offerings, there are some things educators need to stop, start, and reconsider. When redesigning programmatic and curricular offerings to embrace the above, for example, educators could:

  1. Rethink accelerator and incubator programs.
  2. Support systems understanding before solution pitching. 
  3. Value “lived experience.”
  4. Support opportunities for “apprenticing with a problem” and experiential education. 
  5. Create educational ecosystems. 

More and more youth leaders, and people of all ages, are calling for systems change in our communities and around the world. Our education models must evolve to both meet this growing interest, and prepare learners to apply appropriate strategies and methods for real-world, systems-level impact.

Read the full article about systems change in social innovation education by Daniela Papi-Thornton & Joshua Cubista at Stanford Social Innovation Review.