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GSSW Establishes New Center for Social Innovation


By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: Apr. 12, 2012

The Graduate School of Social Work has established a center to formalize and coordinate its initiatives in the emerging field of social innovation, which blends practices in social work and entrepreneurship.

The Center for Social Innovation (CSI) will build on GSSW programs that promote social innovation as a new model for enhancing social justice in an era of decreased public funding and resources, according to the CSI co-directors, GSSW Associate Professors Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes and Stephanie Berzin.

“Establishing the center affirms the work we’ve been doing and provides it with a unifying identity,” said Berzin, who along with Pitt-Catsouphes has guided the GSSW social innovation effort. “It also symbolizes the school’s commitment to being a leader in social innovation.”

Pitt-Catsouphes said, "The Center for Social Innovation provides unique opportunities for faculty, agency leaders and students to partner around the design of new initiatives which can address critical problems.  The center strives to be a catalyst for innovation undertaken by existing agencies so that they can be prepared both for today's problems and tomorrow's opportunities."

GSSW Dean Alberto Godenzi hailed the center’s establishment. “In the past, innovation has mostly been associated with science and technology. Social issues, however, are as much in need of innovative ideas, approaches and solutions. We are excited that the Center for Social Innovation will leverage in collaborative ways the interdisciplinary wisdom and experience of both the academic and practice world.

“My thanks go to BC, who created a fertile environment for innovators and entrepreneurs.”

As part of the school’s initiative, Pitt-Catsouphes and Berzin created a lab for organizations to develop solutions to social issues, unleash their innovation potential and strengthen leadership capacity. In addition, the CSI offers organizations the opportunity to work with GSSW faculty and graduate students on projects with a social innovation component. This spring, the first cohort of social innovation teams will complete the first phase in the two-year program, according to Berzin and Pitt-Catsouphes.

On the academic side, through the CSI GSSW students can develop competencies in social innovation as part of their master’s in social work degree. The social innovation component includes coursework in areas such as leadership, financial management and resource development, field placement opportunities at leading human service organizations, and collaborative opportunities in the Social Innovation Lab.

Earlier this year, CSI created the Social Innovation Symposium with the Capstone Program to help undergraduates consider social innovation as a potential post-graduate or career path.

For more information about the Center for Social Innovation, see the center website.