New Collaborative at Yale Seeks to Elevate Social Entrepreneurship

Justin Freiberg (left), Director of the Yale Landscape Lab poses with MyHealthEd founders Vichi Janannathan (center) and Cristina Leos who won the 2017 Aetna Foundation Prize for Health Equity Innovation.

Justin Freiberg (left), Director of the Yale Landscape Lab poses with MyHealthEd founders Vichi Janannathan (center) and Cristina Leos who won the 2017 Aetna Foundation Prize for Health Equity Innovation.

A new collaborative on campus is formalizing a growing trend at Yale – the rise in social entrepreneurship. In recent years, an increasing number of students have started and participated in ventures that have an impact on human health, education, the environment and social justice issues. Startups like Panorama Education, which uses surveys and data to improve school environments, Real Talk, an app that uses real teen stories to share sex education information, and Coral Vita, which restores degraded and threatened reefs using land-based coral farming.  

There are also a number of prominent Yale alumni in the social venture space, including Linda Rottenberg (LAW ’93), Co-Founder and CEO of Endeavor, a global organization supporting entrepreneurs; Barbara Bush (’04), Co-Founder and Board Chair of Global Health Corps, which is training leaders to promote health equity worldwide; and Jennifer Staple-Clark (’03), Founder and CEO of Unite for Sight which provides cost-effective eye care to communities in need.

Now, there is a place to bring the experience and teachings of these founders and programs together on campus to drive even greater change. The Yale Collaborative on Social Entrepreneurship unites ten centers on campus to define a clear mission and goal: “One Yale that fosters, supports, and inspires an entrepreneurial spirit to address the world’s critical challenges, to positively affect millions of lives over the next decade”.

“We believe that Yale can be a global leader in the social entrepreneurship and innovation space,” says Cass Walker-Harvey, Program Director for Social Entrepreneurship at Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale and Yale Center for Business and the Environment. “Yale students are driven to create positive social change. We recognized the need to bring people together across campus to ensure we are giving students the best possible resources to succeed.”

Participating university organizations include the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale, the Yale Center for Business and the Environment, InnovateHealth Yale, Yale School of Management Program on Entrepreneurship, Yale School of Management Program on Social Enterprise, Yale Center for Engineering, Innovation and Design, Dwight Hall at Yale, Yale Center for Biomedical Innovation & Technology, Yale Policy Lab and Yale Landscape Lab.

“Given the number of programs across the university related to entrepreneurship and innovation, the collaborative gives all of us the chance to understand what we’re working on and elevate our efforts,” says Jennifer McFadden, Associate Director and Lecturer in the Practice of Management at Yale School of Management.

The most direct manifestation of the collaborative is a website called Entrepreneurship Across Yale that serves to combine all the resources for students and faculty interested in entrepreneurship – from how to find mentorship, to what classes are available, to where to go for funding – in one place.

“It is remarkable to see the growth in interest in social entrepreneurship at Yale over the last five years, and now we have wonderful tool to help students interested in making an impact,” says Martin Klein, Director of InnovateHealth Yale.

But most of the collaborative’s work happens at bi-monthly meetings, where organizational leaders from across campus connect on shared workshops and events, work to better identify relevant courses, alumni and investors and to elevate the profile of Yale as a leading force in social innovation.

The student experience has been at the center of the Collaborative – and student leaders have been crucial to its development. Shira Beery (SOM ’17) described her experience as the strategy coordinator for the collaborative as one of the “most meaningful things I did at SOM…. We created a network of programs and departments across the university to share resources available to students and faculty interested in social entrepreneurship. It's been so rewarding.”

Stuart DeCew, Executive Director of CBEY, says “An invaluable resource at Yale is tapping into the expertise of peers. This collaborative allows the best and brightest to apply their expertise to guiding others.”

CONTACT: Brita Belli, Communications Officer, Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale, (203)804-1911, brita.belli@yale.edu

Brita Belli