Winter term 2014

Welcome to our course on social entrepreneurship in the liberal arts. This is the third straight year for this class. I am counting on a memorable four weeks together.

This 2014 Middlebury course has many antecedents. In Winter 2005, I helped to lead a course on ‘Building the New Climate Movement‘ (Four of the students from this course, I am proud to note, went on to found 350.org.)  In the fall of 2007, I supervised an independent study on social entrepreneurship with David Hopkins 07.5. Four sets of Middlebury students and I have studied 21st-century global challenges, first in the ES senior seminar and subsequently in a course with that name. The last time I taught that course, in January 2011, 21 students crafted a vision for the Center for Social Entrepreneurship (CSE). In 2012, with the inauguration of the CSE, this course debuted. Finally, dozens of Middlebury students with whom I have worked, following the tenets of open-source learning, have led projects that mattered: there are too many examples to cite!

What have I learned from all of this? First, that this generation of college students is keenly focused on finding solutions to great challenges: local, regional, and global.  Indeed, ‘The Solutions Generation‘ is a good name for them. Second, the classroom is a wonderful forum for effecting social change, in ways that are humble and sometimes grand. Vermont’s own John Dewey was right: students learn by doing, and in the process get a handle on what it means to live in and build a democratic community. Finally, when all of this really goes well, college students in a liberal arts setting can make progress on the most important goal of the liberal arts: to begin to explore what it means to lead a life of meaning.

This is where the idea of social entrepreneurship comes in. As I have studied the idea over the past few years, I have come to the conclusion that social entrepreneurship is a great complement to the 21st-century liberal arts. I wrote about this three years ago; it is from the observations in that essay (summarized in this brief video and this animated lecture) that our class will begin.

We will try to accomplish much during these four weeks of winter term, not the least of which will be an exciting collaboration with Google and playing a leading role in the  Third Annual Symposium for the Center for Social Entrepreneurship,

I look forward to all of this very much.

JI



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