New graduate program for changemakers

Social innovation energy flowed through the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ) Theatre last week for New York Times journalist David Bornstein’s lecture, “How social innovation can shape a better world.” Bornstein shared his innovative solutions journalism model and congratulated the IPJ on their new Master of Art in Social Innovation (MASI), which will be available for graduate students in the fall.

Bornstein writes the NYT column “Fixes” which investigates solutions to real world problems by giving examples of small-scale projects. Fixes inspired a larger movement of solutions journalism, which led to the inception of the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN). Bornstein is the CEO and founder of SJN and has curated a network of 75 news organizations that are trained in the impact of this form of journalism.

Photo courtesy of Kroc Institute of Peace and Justice | Patricia Márquez, dean of the IPJ, David Bornstein, New York Times journalist, and senior Charlotte Vitak lead the question and answer period of the “How social innovation can shape a better world lecture,” Feb. 16.

“Journalism is a feedback system,” Bornstein said. “But, right now, it’s a broken feedback system. Something new will be reborn when the business model fails again. Solutions journalism focuses on the information that’s important and how to solve the problem.”

Senior Charlotte Vitak helped lead the question and answer portion of the night. Vitak is part of the Changemaker Hub and started the My Story event on campus.

“I think that people on our campus often complain about the things they think are wrong; they have no problem getting vocal among their peers,” Vitak said. “However, I think that people on this campus need to recognize the power of their student voice.”

Vitak encouraged students to take action if they see problems on campus.

“If you think there is a problem, talk to someone in a position of power, start an initiative to change the issue, talk to your [Associated Students] senator, attend a planning event, even just reading your emails to know what is happening on campus is helpful,” Vitak said. “I think students need to be more active in creating a space that they want to see rather than complaining to their friends.”

During the question and answer period, Vitak asked Bornstein about intrapreneurship, and how it can affect social innovation. Bornstein explained how intrapreneurship is an effective mode of social innovation because it takes existing structures of businesses or colleges and works from the inside to create change.

“Intrapreneurship is working within an organization or business,” Bornstein said. “You have to make others look good while being quiet and letting other people take credit for your work. MASI is a great example of intrapreneurship.”

Bornstein elaborated that MASI will create opportunities for social innovation because it will teach students how to approach problems and create solutions.

Vitak learned about intrapreneurship through her own interests in changemaking.

“I am fascinated by social innovation and the types of stories that David’s network tells,” Vitak said. “By being interested and attentive to these types of stories, I bumped into the concept somewhere along the way. I love that it takes a top-down approach to systems change and the way in which large changes can be made to companies or even industries with such simple and intelligent ideas.”

Patricia Márquez, the Dean of the Kroc School, explained how MASI came to be at USD.

“The Master of Arts in Social Innovation (MASI) offers knowledge and capabilities to develop new approaches to existing social and environmental challenges,” Márquez said. “At the Kroc School, we recognize students are passionate about different issues. For example, one student might be interested in issues of human trafficking, while another one wants to address homelessness. We also recognize that students seeking to create transformative change come with different educational backgrounds and sets of skills. MASI is designed to nurture individual passion and strengths, while preparing people for innovation and the practice of changemaking.”

Márquez also explained how MASI would affect changemaking at USD.

“MASI is the first graduate program at USD developed for people who want to be social innovators within existing institutional settings or by starting their own ventures,” Márquez said. “Any undergraduate student at USD or any institution around the world, who wants to create the change they want to see in the world, can acquire the knowledge and skills to be even more effective as an agent of change.”

MASI provides an opportunity for students to learn design thinking, innovation and social entrepreneurship, which are areas closely linked to the practice of changemaking.

Márquez stated that Bornstein’s solutions journalism was a good example of social innovation.

“It offers a new approach to media content,” Márquez said. “Instead of having mostly news about problems, solutions journalism is a network of journalists writing stories about solutions to those problems. Students can learn from all the stories and they can also learn about how David has developed the organization: how does it work? How is it sustained? What is its impact?”

Photo courtesy of Kroc Institute of Peace and Justice | David Bornstein, New York Times journalist, spoke about his Solutions Journalism Network and social innovation on Feb. 16 in the IPJ Theatre.

In his speech, Bornstein emphasized the importance of solutions journalism focusing on the counter-narrative. For example, a news organization in the SJN did an in-depth article about the improvement of police relations with black members of the community in Milwaukee. He explained that telling the stories of these solutions in communities can serve as an examples for other communities with the same issues.

“There’s something about the science of improvement,” Bornstein said. “Solutions journalism covers big problems. It puts healthy, aspirational pressure on the system to encourage change.”

During his lecture, Bornstein posed the question of how to teach social innovation that grounds students in real world contexts.

“A combination of a critical eye and hopeful heart [is necessary],” Bornstein said. “We want to teach people to be critical thinkers and understand pieces that could be put together to create change. MASI has wonderful potential to do that.”

Many students on USD’s changemaker campus, hope to learn from Bornstein’s journalism and use the solutions journalism as real-world examples of change in the classroom and in the community.

Elisabeth Smith | News Editor