LASTING SOCIAL CHANGE FOCUS OF NEW KROC SCHOOL INSTITUTE
For years, USD has stood as a global leader as a Changemaker campus, helping students discover the solutions our world needs to address pressing social issues. Still, a central space where people could come together to share ideas around social innovation was missing.
Spark @ USD launched in the fall of 2022. It’s an institute that’s housed within the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies and is a global accelerator for social innovation.
“Our vision for Spark @ USD is to create a place where students, faculty members and community stakeholders can bring a kernel of an idea and connect with others to get that spark to tackle the world’s biggest challenges,” explains Associate Director of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Andrew Biros.
Spark @ USD is founded on three pillars: cultivate social entrepreneurs, produce knowledge for changemakers and connect students to action.
The key way that Spark @ USD cultivates social entrepreneurs is through the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge (FGSIC), a global pitch competition in which students come up with ideas grounded in the United Nations sustainable development goals and create ventures — for profit and nonprofit — that seek to address those goals at a local level.
This past year at the FGSIC finals, 26 global universities participated, with 41 student venture teams pitching their ideas. In total, $75,000 was invested in 18 promising global social ventures. These students can continue to work on their social ventures and drive positive change thanks to Ron and Alexis Fowler, who created a $5 million endowment for the FGSIC.
“Ron and Alexis’ generosity will afford us to grow the FGSIC so that we are able to bring more global social entrepreneurs together and to invest in and support high-quality, social ventures that otherwise might not have made the impact we’re confident they can have,” says Biros.
Toward that end, Spark @ USD has launched a series of teaching cases on social impact. These cases provide students with a front-row seat to the work being done by global social innovators and leaders, while encouraging students to bring new ways of thinking and problem-solving to the table.
Currently, there are three teaching cases written by Kroc School of Peace Studies faculty that share specific dilemmas that invite students to answer the question, “What would you do if you were a company or organization in this circumstance?”
“When it comes to social impact, we need teaching tools for students that prepare them to drive positive social change,” says Biros. “Relying on the experiences of those who are doing that now and affording students [the opportunity] to grapple with the challenges that those people face is crucial.”
Spark @ USD works to connect students to action by bringing in leading experts of innovation to engage with students and faculty members. The Kroc School welcomed its first-ever social innovator in residence, Roshan Paul,
this fall. Paul launched the Amani Institute in Nairobi, Kenya more than a decade ago for individuals and organizations seeking to lead social change.
During his time at USD, Paul connected with students to share ideas and even helped a group of graduate students launch a new podcast called Is the World on Fire?
“We’re very grateful to have Roshan Paul as our first social innovator in residence,” says Biros. — Kelsey Grey ’15 (BA)
Caption: USD Provost Gail Baker, Board Chair Emeritus Ron Fowler and School of Peace Dean Patricia Marquez look on as Associate Director of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Andrew Biros addresses the crowd at the 2022 Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge.
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