Where and when did it start? When you operated a lemonade stand as a child? Competed in your first sport or entered a project in the science fair? High school? Did you wake up one day to a realization? Did it happen while traveling or on an experiential journey? Did someone’s story resonate and it just clicked?
The “it” is passion. With it, there’s no telling where one can go. Even without a truly clear pathway, hope for it remains. Figuring it all out today isn’t the most important thing, but starting today is.
“Change in the world today is accelerating,” Ashoka CEO/Founder Bill Drayton said (pictured, right). “The world needs everyone to be a Changemaker. Everyone needs to have a dream and build on it. We can all make a difference.”
Drayton spoke this past weekend as the University of San Diego welcomed 650 innovative thinkers and social entrepreneurs from more than 30 countries and 120 institutions for the third annual Ashoka U Exchange.
Ashoka U, the higher education branch of the international nonprofit that’s dedicated to social entrepreneurship and innovation, awarded its Changemaker Campus designation to USD in September 2011. After successful conferences at Duke University (2011) and Arizona State University (2012), USD hosted this year’s whirlwind of creative thinking, ideas, programs, engaged dialogue and top-flight speakers. The exchange is designed to infuse more passion among all Changemakers.
“It’s not all about what happens here, it’s also important what you take back to your institutions,” said Ashoka U Executive Director Marina Kim.
“Changemaking thrives on college campuses because universities create this unconstrained environment where young adults can explore their passions, dream big and create their own reality,” Schwanke said. “The beauty of college is that you have this amazing opportunity to explore your passions and your fellow classmates and professors are there to support you along the way.
“And it doesn’t end in college,” he continued. “This curiosity, this very Zen way of learning, sticks with you the rest of your life. If you’re living in that element where you’re chasing what you love, you’ll begin to manifest your own reality, and success will find you. And I’m not talking about financial success. Money is great, but your story is most powerful when it positively affects other people — that’s what changemaking is at its core: How your story positively affects the stories of those around you.”
Schwanke spoke about his search for a major, some examples of USD student and alumni Changemakers, advice from a USD mentor and how a Facebook page inspired a better connection among the student body. Schwanke reminded the audience they weren’t just attending a conference: “This is an exchange — an exchange of ideas and an exchange of stories.”
Storytellers were Ashoka U Changemaker Campus representatives explaining implementation of their designation; Ashoka Fellows sharing wisdom and their projects; career advice for young Changemakers; innovative idea presentations, including the 2013 Ashoka U/Cordes Foundation Innovation Award winners (pictured, left); dialogue about successful ventures, sustainability, microfinance and leadership, challenges with program implementation or enhancement. A TEDx talk event, featuring four Ashoka Fellows among the seven speakers, was held at downtown San Diego’s Balboa Theatre.
As the host, USD was well represented. Patricia Marquez, director of the university’s Changemaker Hub, was on multiple panels, including a fun presentation in which she and USD colleagues Kevin Guerrieri, Chris Nayve, Zachary Green, Crystal Dujowich (pictured, below right) and Juan Carlos Rivas demonstrated the university’s campus-wide, connected approach to changemaking.
Executive Vice President and Provost Julie Sullivan appreciated Ashoka’s decision to have its Changemaker model placed at higher education institutions.
“I’m grateful that Bill Drayton identified colleges and universities as ecosystems for creating the next generation of Changemakers. There’s never been a better time to do it and our society has never been more connected and had more access to each other to lead to change.”
There’s an emphasis at USD on study abroad, undergraduate research, community service, experiential and faith-based learning, entrepreneurial programs such as the Social Innovation Challenge, USD One Challenge, Venture Vetting (V2) and Changemaker scholarships to identify student role models. The residence halls have nine innovative Living-Learning Communities and a Changemaker-inspired interdisciplinary minor is in the works.
Ashoka U announced the addition of three more Changemaker Campuses — Dublin City University, Ireland; University of Northhampton, England; and Boston College — to raise its total to 22. Brown University, located in Providence, R.I. and selected as a Changemaker Campus in 2012, will host the next Ashoka U Exchange, Feb. 20-22, 2014.
“Part of the reason why this is so much fun, why I enjoy doing this, is that the transformation of changemaking allows me to learn so much more about myself,” she said. “I have a long way to go.”
More than 80 USD students attended the exchange, some of who were volunteers, to interact with the Ashoka Fellows and attend sessions that add to their Changemaker aspirations.
Adriana Kaplan, a sophomore double major in business administration and Italian and leadership minor, wasn’t a volunteer. She and classmates Kyle Miller and Chris Barrett were Idea Lab presenters for their non-profit organization, Lace Up, Stand Up, an anti-bullying program created as a social change project in class.
“We got so many ideas on how to expand and grow our program,” she said. “One of the main things was the ability to network and see other perspectives from people all across the nation. These were individuals so focused and passionate about change; they didn’t need to know everything about our topic or organization, but they see the passion we have and they just want to help.”
— Ryan T. Blystone
Photos of Bill Drayton by Rodney Nakamoto