Stories | Social Innovation

We follow the stories of students at Brown University working across issues, in communities around the world, on projects connected to social impact and innovation.

  • April 11, 2016

    Richard Park '16 & Bella Okiddy MS '16, and Caroline Stevens AM '16 have recieved the 2016 Embark Post-Graduate Fellowship, which supports graduating students seeking to pursue their entrepreneurial ventures as full-time endeavors post-graduation.

    Here, the Fellows share their stories and innovations. 

    Swearer Center
  • March 25, 2016

    Kristin spoke with Sharma in her office at the Swearer Center for Public Service in early March—as it happened, on International Women’s Day. Sharma, who lives in Delhi, is the first Social Entrepreneur in Residence, a partnership between the Swearer Center and the Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy.

    Sharma is the founder of the award-winning nonprofit FORCE, a water conservation and policy organization that promotes sustainable, equitable water management through “Modern Technology, Traditional Wisdom, and People’s Participation.”

    This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    Kristin Moe
  • March 15, 2016

    Yelitsa Jean-Charles studies Illustration at RISD with a a concentration in Gender, Race & Sexuality. She identifies as a visual activist, and believes that artists have a responsibility as society’s image-makers. Her doll company and book series, Healthy Roots, combats internalized racism and colorism by getting to the root of the problem: altering beauty standards and cultviating self-love for young girls through education, diversity, and positive representation. 

    Isabel DeBre and Nitya Amalean, Storytellers for Good
  • January 29, 2016

    Cameron is a sophomore studying Business, Entrepreneurship, and Organizations. In the future, he hopes to integrate his passions for public speaking, creative content marketing, and planning into mission-driven work.

    Cameron Keegan '18
  • December 11, 2015

    Ben is a young kid who found himself running a business. He has a history of social activism and entrepreneurship and is currently the Chief Operation Officer at Imperfect Produce.

    After graduation Ben received the Embark Post-Graduate Fellowship which has enabled him to work full-time on Imperfect after graduation. Applications are open for the Embark Fellowship until 12/18.

    Benjamin Chesler '15
  • September 4, 2015

    Yelitsa is a 2015 Social Innovation Fellow and a children's illustrator from the Rhode Island School of Design. She is the founder of Healthy Roots, a toy company that designs dolls to celebrate the beauty of diversity and combat internalized racism and colorism. The Healthy Roots Kickstarter is currently live and they would love your support in promoting diversity in children’s toys.

    Yelitsa Jean-Charles RISD '16
  • August 27, 2015

    Ria is a 2015 Social Innovation Fellow. She is the co-founder of No Country for Women, an internationally-recognized gender education initiative that aims to combat systemic gender-based discrimination in India.

    Ria Vaidya '16
  • August 18, 2015

    Grace is a 2015 Social Innovation Fellow. She is the co-founder of Uplift, a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to tackling sexual violence in online fan communities.

    Grace Miller '15
  • August 13, 2015
  • August 11, 2015

    Austin is a 2015 Social Innovation Fellow. He has developed Rhymes with Reason, an interactive platform that teaches academic vocabulary to inner city students using hip­hop lyrics. This summer, he is piloting Rhymes with Reason in Inglewood, CA, San Diego, CA, and Detroit, MI.

    Austin Martin '17
  • August 9, 2015
    An Appetizer for My Cultural Cookbook

    Mina is a Brown-RISD Social Innovation Fellow. She has traveled to her hometown in Iran to write a cultural cookbook. The book, expanding upon Iranian recipes to address larger issues of food culture, economics, history, and family life, will introduce Iranian society American readers through little-told personal stories. 

    Mina Jafarpoor '16
  • May 29, 2015
    11 Students Dive into a Summer of Social Innovation

    What happens when the story you've been telling yourself about the future is replaced by the story of what actually will be?

    Every summer, a group of students experience this shift as they launch ideas into the world with the Social Innovation Fellowship. This year's 11 Fellows from Brown and RISD will work full-time on their social ventures in 6 different countries, deeply immersing themselves in the opportunity to learn, take risks, and make change in the world.

    As they set out for the summmer with hopes and plans of what their stories will be, we grabbed a moment with each of them to see where they're starting. Take a look.

    Liza Yeager '17, Storyteller for Good
  • March 23, 2015

    Macklin Fluehr is a Sophomore Mechanical Engineer interested in product design, architecture, and Rural Design. Mac is a member of the Brown Sailing team and performs rock music on campus. 

    Macklin Fluehr ‘17
  • March 15, 2015
    Exploring Identity and International Development

    Two years ago, I witnessed the pitfalls of international service work firsthand: after a year of developing a social venture in South Africa, it became clear that my identity as a white, educated American student was inappropriate and obtrusive. Since then, I’ve realized that you don’t need to be an entrepreneur to have an immersive summer experience in social innovation--but you do need to have an open mind about your own identity and role in another community.

    Last summer, Saron Mechale ‘17, Sarah Hsu ‘17, and Julianna Bradley ‘17 traveled to Panama, Uganda, and Ecuador with different programs to learn about innovation, development, and community engagement. I spoke with them to learn about the challenges and successes they faced during their summers.

    Natasha Blackadar '15
  • March 13, 2015

    Sara co-leads MED International, an interdisciplinary team developing IT and engineering solutions for resource-limited hospitals. She is a sophomore concentrating in Engineering at Brown. 

    Sara Peletz ‘17
  • March 10, 2015

    Gaby is Co-Chair of SEEED @ Brown, an organization of students that helps organize an annual conference on social enterprise ecosystems on campus. She is also a Social Innovation Ambassador at the Swearer Center, working to expand the social innovation community at Brown. She is a sophomore concentrating in Public Policy and Development Studies. 

    Gabriela Ines Gonzalez '17
  • February 23, 2015

    Read reflections and see photos from some of this year's Innovate Winter Break interns, a program of the Social Innovation Initiative and Brown CareerLAB that provides two-week mini-internships during winter break at organizations dedicated to social justice, impact, and entrepreneurship in Boston and NYC.

    Swearer Center
  • September 30, 2014
    How A Small State Makes Local Food Possible

    Have you tasted a local tomato lately? Shopped at a farmers market, or taken a nutrition education class? For many Rhode Islanders, the answer is yes, thanks to Farm Fresh Rhode Island. In the ten years since it was founded, Farm Fresh Rhode Island has turned one state into a thriving healthy food system – and an example of success for a nation recognizing the need to go local. 

    Liza Yeager '17, Storyteller for Good
  • September 9, 2014
    Action-Based Learning in the Great Outdoors

    This summer, Moving Mountains hosted its first summer camp, two weeks of nature exploration and sustainable living lessons at Roger Williams Park in Providence. For the urban high school students who participated in camp, it was an introduction to spending time outside as well as an opportunity to make friends and grow leadership skills. And for Co-Founders and Social Innovation Fellows Jared Rothenberg ’15 and Ivy Sokol ’15.5, this outdoor education adventure was just the beginning. 

    Liza Yeager '17, Storyteller for Good
  • August 26, 2014
    One Student's Exploration of Human-Centered Design on Two Campuses

    For Allison Wong ’15, being a Brown/RISD dual degree student means thinking a lot about social change - in very creative ways. During her four years in Providence, Allison has explored what she calls “design-based approaches to social innovation,” combining the best of her knowledge and experience from both schools to make serious community impact. 

    Liza Yeager '17, Storyteller for Good
  • August 20, 2014

    Habiba Sugich RISD '15 is a Social Innovation Fellow working on a project to find an optimal solution that allows for Nubian women artisans to be fairly compensated for their work, while also preserving the craft and heritage of a slowly diminishing culture.


    Habiba Sugich
  • August 10, 2014

    Fiora Macpherson '16 is a Social Innovation Fellow and the Director of Expansion at the Student Language Exchange.

    Fiora Macpherson
  • July 14, 2014

    Maneul Contreras '16 is  a Social Innovation Fellow developing 1vyG, an organization that strengthens and empowers first-generation communities.

    Manuel Contreras
  • May 9, 2014
    How to build a movement, find personal truths, and face your fears
    Swearer Center
  • May 3, 2014
    Adjunct Professor, Consultant, Optimist

    MJ Kaplan pushes her students to seek knowledge first and see solutions second. Her course provides a space for students leading social ventures to build skills and community over the course of a semester. Here she explains how she became an enterprise builder and what students gain from the study of social innovation.

    Liza Yeager '17, Storyteller for Good
  • May 2, 2014
    Sociology Professor, Crossing Guard Advocate

    Ann Dill gives her students a toolbox for change. As a professor at Brown, she taught courses like Investing in Social Change that immerse students in the theory and practice of philanthropy. Here she explains how she learned from a young age that "the only way to make change was to make waves." 

    Liza Yeager '17, Storyteller for Good
  • April 11, 2014
  • March 26, 2014

    On March 14-16, a committee of fifteen Brown students organized the first Converge for Change conference for students wishing to engage critically with issues of social justice. Here Becca Wolinsky '14, one of the lead organizers, reflects on the event's beginnings and future.

    Becca Wolinsky
  • March 25, 2014
    Ashoka U Exchange 2014
    Swearer Center
  • March 20, 2014

    Gavyn Ooi '14 has had huge impact on Brown's campus over the last four years through his involvement in Strait TalkBrown Student Radio, and the co-founding of Kozbox, a fundraising social venture.

    Gavyn Ooi
  • March 13, 2014

    In the last semester and a half, Maya Finoh '17 has taken Brown University's campus by storm. She has been an avid supporter of social change through her role in the Undergraduate Council of Students and planning the Converge for Change conference. She is also co-editor of OBSIDIAN, an online literary and visual space for people of the African diaspora. 

    Swearer Center
  • March 11, 2014
    Ashoka U Exchange 2014
    Swearer Center
  • March 6, 2014

    Sarah Day Dayon '15 has been a leading force in cultural dialogue on campus as a Minority Peer Counselor, an active member of the Third World Center, a member of Filipino Alliance, and a leader of its female spoken word subgroup Archipelag-a.

    Swearer Center
  • February 27, 2014

    Ben Gellman '14 has spent his four years at Brown exploring the intersections of race, sexuality, urban development, and social change. He is now launching the Motor City Exchange, a startup network of summer fellowship programs in Detroit's social sector.

    Swearer Center
  • February 22, 2014

    In the final posts of our blog series on social innovation, we asked two students to examine the definition of social innovation on our website. Here Ben Chesler '15, co-founder of the Food Recovery Network, shares what social innovation means to him.

    Ben Chesler '15
  • February 20, 2014

    In the final posts of our blog series on social innovation, we asked two students to examine the definition of social innovation on our website. Here Rexy Josh Dorado, co-founder of the Kaya Collaborative, shares what social innovation means to him.

    Rexy Josh Dorado
  • February 20, 2014

    Emilie Aries '09 is a Brown alumna making waves as a startup CEO for Bossed Up, an organization that brings well-balanced leadership training and coaching to ambitious women. 

    Swearer Center
  • February 13, 2014
  • February 12, 2014

    In a three-part blog series, we ask members of the Brown community to answer the question: “What does social innovation mean to you?” The Director and Assistant Director of the Social Innovation Initiative, Alan Harlam and Lizzie Pollock, provide our second definition below.

    Alan Harlam, Lizzie Pollock
  • February 6, 2014

    Tomás Quiñonez-Riegos '15 describes his work running an international education social venture and the lessons he's learned along the way. Tomás is also the newest student staffer at the Social Innovation Initiative, where he is working on Special Projects.

    Swearer Center
  • February 5, 2014

    In a three-part blog series, we ask members of the Brown community to answer the question: “What does social innovation mean to you?” President Christina Paxson kicks off the series with her recipe for social innovation.

    Christina Paxson
  • January 7, 2014

    Robin Pendoley is the Founder & CEO of Thinking Beyond Borders, a nonprofit that designs and leads international gap year programs for students to prepare for a lifetime of commitment to creating meaningful social impact. Robin also serves as a mentor for the Social Innovation Fellowship (formerly known as the C.V. Starr Fellowship) with over a decade of experience in international development theory, education, comprehensive internationalization, and nonprofit management.

    Robin Pendoley
  • August 26, 2013

    Hannah Bebbington ’14 is a Starr Fellow working for the A Better World by Design conference.

    Swearer Center
  • August 14, 2013
  • August 9, 2013

    Andrew Kaplan '15 and Sam Gilman '15 are Starr Fellows working on building a grassroots organization, Common Sense Action

    Andrew Kaplan and Sam Gilman
  • August 6, 2013

    Alexander Hadik '15 is a Starr Fellow living in Providence working on A Better World by Design

    Alexander Hadik
  • July 23, 2013

    Tomas Quinonez-Riegos '15 is a Starr Fellow living in Panama and working for iTeachCommunity

    Tomas Quinonez-Riegos
  • The College Advising Corps at Brown University seeks to increase the number of low-income, first-generation college and underrepresented students who enter and complete higher education. Learn more. 

  • Student-led Community Partnership programs at the Swearer Center address a range of issues through direct service and advocacy, with a particular depth in work aimed at educational inequities. Learn more.

  • The Engaged Scholars Program supports students and faculty who seek to integrate teaching, research, and practice in order to advance scholarship and benefit the world beyond Brown. Learn more.

  • Innovate Winter Break is a "mini internship" program providing opportunities for student interns to work on engaging projects for two weeks during winter break within social enterprise and nonprofit organizations. Learn more.

  • iProv Summer Internship Program provides a $3,500 stipend for undergraduate students to work full-time in 8-10 week internships with nonprofit organizations based in the greater Providence area. Learn more.

  • The Royce Fellowship Program supports Brown undergraduates as they carry out independent projects of their own design in locations across the United States and around the world. Learn more.

  • The Social Innovation Fellowship provides 15-20 students with funding to grow a social venture over the summer, supported by a year of intensive skills training, complementary coursework, and a community of social entrepreneurs on campus offering mentorship and critique. Learn more.

  • The Storytellers for Good program supports students with skills in digital media to produce stories about students, alumni, and faculty exploring social change at Brown. Learn more.

  • The TRI-Lab Program is an initiative that brings together students, faculty, and community practitioners to engage with complex social issues and collaboratively develop, refine, and test solutions to these issues. Learn more.