The Social Innovation High

I will always remember the moment when I first heard about Social Innovation. The feeling that I had about the idea of incorporating service, giving, and philanthropy to your business and career seemed to resonate with me in a way that few things ever had. You could say, as James once said in class, that I was on a “social innovation high.” I’m not quite sure if this “high” has ever diminished since that moment over a year ago, and I’m pretty sure that I never really want it to. However, one thing that I learned from this is that this “high,” this incredibly good idea that is Social Innovation, is a lot more real than I first thought.

Of course I never thought social innovation to be unreal, but let’s just say I think it was more of a hope and a dream that I really, really wanted to come true. I had so many unanswered questions that accompanied this hope when I first stepped into class. These questions revolved around the looming question that I never let myself admit, but subconsciously always considered; “is this even possible?” Specifically, these questions dealt with my immediate career path. What will I do this summer? Should I pursue a social or corporate internship? And even more importantly, what will I do post-graduation?

With these questions in mind, I approached each day of class weighing the pros and cons of each direction (social vs. traditional internship/first job). Fortunately for me, Todd and Jessamyn did a masterful job of preparing a class and curriculum that objectively analyzed the world of social innovation and challenged the present paradigm of who the world thinks a “changemaker” really is. Through various activities and readings that opened our eyes to the different methodologies that exist both in and out of the social impact space, as well as the different roles that one could take to make an impact, we were able to form a more clear vision of what our opinions really are and what role we actually wanted to play. Also, the questions during class that both challenged our views and widened our perspectives were vital in laying the groundwork to really make an educated decision.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but throughout these activities I felt like my answers slowly came to a point where now, I feel more confident than ever in the next 3-4 years. The greatest part is not only do I feel confident in my initial decision for this summer and post-graduation, but I also understand and feel comfortable with the fact that it will probably change, that most likely this “plan” that I have for myself will be overturned for a new, greater opportunity. Or maybe it won’t! However, another thing I learned through this class is to be okay with ambiguity. Have a plan, keep yourself informed, and never close the door on another opportunity.

For now, I’m going to pursue a corporate internship with Advisory in San Francisco. After three to four years I would love to get an MBA, and then jump full-time to the social impact space, hopefully working with an education tech company aiming to improve education domestically.

With this initial question answered, it’s almost overwhelming to consider the follow-up questions. Although I feel like I have the most important piece covered (for now), I know I need to start working on the next step and answering the next couple questions. One of these questions is definitely the second question of this final; How will you continue this process of self-reflection and layered learning? 

Something that this class really emphasized was the importance of networks. In every field of business we are taught that networking is essential to success. Because the social impact field is so relatively new and untraveled, I have learned that networking is especially important. Luckily for me, through this class and other groups on campus, I have been able to surround myself with incredible people that have amazing dreams and talents that will one day change the world. These friends of mine inspire me everyday, and I plan on maintaining these relationships as long as I can. Along with maintaining networks, I plan to always stay involved in the conversation. The world of social innovation is always changing and growing, and unless you stay on top of the news than you will lose out. By keeping up with my own personal research and reading about the work of others, I hope to always be able to contribute.

I have always loved school, but rarely have I found myself wishing that class would last longer, like I did several times this semester with this class. I have learned so much about social innovation, the world, and most importantly myself. My “social innovation high” might have grounded itself through this class, but now I can promise you that it will never go away.