Who Is a Social Innovator?

Hello from the Social Innovation and Change Initiative (SICI) offices at Harvard Kennedy School! This note marks the first of what I expect will be monthly roundups about our work and our growing community. Our hope is that these recaps encourage you to stay in touch with us and connect with each other.

For those of you who still remember life at school, it will not surprise you to hear that September at SICI ushered in a flurry of reunions, introductions, announcements, and previews of what’s to come. These moments marked an exciting new beginning for the individuals featured, the organizations they lead, and the communities they serve. Taken together, they also capture a rich tapestry of approaches to social impact emerging within the SICI community. We are thrilled by this diversity – across students, faculty, and practitioners alike – and we are motivated to keep using Harvard’s platform in ways that draw attention to groundbreaking efforts across sectors, geographies, cultures, identities, and paths to scale. Take a look at the people and projects below. It is through our collective efforts that these projects will take flight, teach others, and transform the world around us.

  • Julie Battilana, our fearless leader, beloved colleague, and SICI’s Founder and Faculty Chair, was named by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship and the World Economic Forum as a 2019 Social Innovation Thought Leader. This is the first time the organization has bestowed its annual award upon categories of changemakers beyond Social Entrepreneurs. We were equally thrilled to find out that SICI affiliates, Christian Seelos and Cheryl Dorsey, were also named Thought Leaders this year. Congratulations to each of them for the decades of work this award represents.
  • The 2019-20 cohort of Beck Visiting Social Innovators electrified the Harvard community through their presence on campus and the enthusiasm is contagious. Read more about their initiatives and, if you are inspired to get involved, let us know here.
    Ai-jen Poo and Palak Shah (Beck VSI) joined me for SICI’s debut on the JFK Forum stage, to discuss the cultural, political, and economic innovations they are leading through the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
  • Finally, 18 new Cheng Fellows delivered impassioned introductions at the annual Social Innovator Spotlight. From youth homelessness in Massachusetts to early childhood education in Brazil, these students are redesigning the future of their communities around the world.

If the months that follow are anything like the last 30 days, keep an eye out because this year will be one to remember!