2011 Class Speakers
Posted by Administrator on August 8, 2011 at 3:06 PM EDT
Written by Frank Winslow, Communications Manager
Sarah Bishop coordinates StartingBloc's flagship program, the Institute for Social Innovation. Sarah works on recruitment, curriculum design, and programming so that Fellows can get the tools, skills, and resources they need to dramatically increase their impact.
What is Social Innovation?
This is an emerging field and there are lots of definitions for what Social Innovation is. StartingBloc defines it as anything that does good for the world using market mechanisms. A lot of people put it this way: "Make money. Do good." Social Innovation is an umbrella term that encompasses social entrepreneurship, which is relevant to the brainstorming seminar because it's all about starting something. Social Innovation also includes all the ways you can do good stuff and make money. At the heart of the field are sustainability and social change.
How did your interest in Social Innovation develop?
This usually begins with what is called "the moment of obligation" in the nonprofit sector. For me that was my sophomore year of college. I went on a trip to Bolivia because I thought it would be really, really fun. It was a crazy loony experience, and it was the moment that I realized that the people in any scenario are the things that matter most. They're the drivers. In the past I had paid a lot of attention to the environment and animals and sort of systemic issues, but for me that was the light bulb that went on. I thought, "Wow, I really need to pay attention to people because they're the ones who are going to solve all of these problems."
What are your key points of interest in the field?
Our whole philosophy is that we are going to develop the leaders who will be making changes. So we're focusing on people, on individuals. We're a people incubator as opposed to a business incubator. We incubate these leaders, and we walk the walk through our StartingBloc Fellowship, which is life long. No matter what job our Fellows are in, whether it's for-profit or non-profit, a big or small organization, part-time or full-time, they're still StartingBloc Fellows. And we aim to offer programs and services to them. We truly believe that people are behind an organization's decisions, so we try to teach them to think sustainably and to be innovative in their problem solving.
In your seminar on brainstorming at the Baruch Leadership Academy, you mentioned that you often work with college-aged students and young professionals. What's different about working with high school students and what do you like about it?
High school students have an incredibly linear thinking process, which can run very deep but at the same time can miss solutions or innovations that might not become immediately apparent. Sometimes younger students are less amenable to the idea that there can be several correct solutions to a single problem. We aimed to challenge these types of notions in our brainstorming seminar. High schoolers also have vast amounts of energy to contribute to solving problems. And most people haven't been scared to talk. Everybody wants to raise their hand and contribute.
Can you speak to the importance of the central questions in your seminar: "Why is brainstorming important?" and "How might you apply the idea(s) you came across?"
In my experience, both as a student and as a teacher, it's much more effective to answer a question for yourself than to have someone answer it for you. So I'm always trying to get students or participants to answer questions for themselves because whatever they come up with will be more relevant than what I come up with.