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Boston College School of Social Work
Center for Social Innovation
Joan Wallace-Benjamin, president and CEO of the Home for Little Wanderers
Joan Wallace-Benjamin, president and CEO of the Home for Little Wanderers

"The Social Innovation Lab at BC has given The Home For Little Wanderers a process to guide our team in its efforts to develop innovations we think will transform the lives of the young people we serve through our Young Adult Resource Network."

Read more about the Social Innovation Lab in the Boston College Chronicle

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Practice Lab

Social Innovation Lab

The CSI Practice Lab provides experiential opportunities to develop the practice capacities of practitioners.


What can the Lab do?

  • Challenges and Competitions
  • Ideation and Design Thinking
  • Incubators
  • Consulting
  • Training

Select Examples:

Challenges & Competitions:

In partnership with the United Way of Mass Bay and Merrimack Valley, the CSI held the IF Challenge. The competition engaged nonprofits around Boston in answering the question, "What if we could end family homelessness?"

Ideation and Design Thinking:

In 2014, the Center for Social Innovation concluded its international Social Innovation Lab in partnership with Ruta N Medellín, which guided local leaders in addressing pressing social issues in Medellín, Colombia.

Together with Ruta N Medellín and local consulting partners, more than 65 lab participants, representing over 30 organizations, were recruited for participation in the Lab.  Counting on team engagement from nonprofits, for- profits, universities, and governmental organizations, the four Lab teams designed solutions to issues related to Housing, Transportation, Overcoming the urban conflict, and Entrepreneurship.


The BC Social Innovation Lab officially formed in 2011 with the mission of creating a nexus for innovation research, pedagogy, and practice. At the time, the CSI had several initiatives already in place to advance the field of Social Innovation, both domestically and abroad.  

Some of the Initial Domestic Projects included working with Bridge Over Troubled Waters, the Old Colony YMCA, and the Phoenix Charter Academy. The success of these projects helped prove the feasibility of the Social Innovation framework, and opened the door for expanding internationally. This led to partnerships and projects in both Colombia and Chile to improve local organizations' capacity for Social Innovation.

More recently, the CSI was invited to serve as an academic partner for Forbes' Nonprofit Change the World Competition, which awarded $1 million for socially innovative ideas.

CSI continues to expand the lab with a focus on sustainable and impactful projects. Building upon our shared mission with the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and the Merrimack Valley, we ran an innovation competition to address family homelessness and provide technical support for agencies to implement the winning projects.

In order to blend pedagogy with practice, BC Macro Social Work students engage in a real world practicum in which they develop business plans for agencies who are trying to implement socially innovative ideas. For more information, go to Social Enterprises.