In this post, Tiffany Morris, has taken a look at the new collaborations happening between universities and social innovators ensuring that the fine print doesn’t get overlooked while trying to change the world.
At Ashoka, we get the opportunity to constantly see examples of social entrepreneurs who look at society’s way of doing things and figure out how to make them better. But as any corporate change manager or student of Isaac Newton knows, change can be a difficult business if you’re one small person against complex systems. Legal systems are just one of many such complex systems that social entrepreneurs must navigate in order to be successful, but increasingly, they do not have to do it alone. Law schools are joining the “collective impact”-movement by using their legal clinics to provide social entrepreneurs with much-needed legal support from some of America’s brightest law students. Collective impact is a powerful new concept: the idea that all actors that have a stake in a problem should work together to solve that problem. So, for example, if science education is an agreed upon problem in the United States, rather than only having schools deal with the problem, tech companies, secondary schools, research firms, etc. should all work together to co-create solutions to create better students and better future science industry employees and researchers.
Madison Ayer, an Ashoka Fellow elected in 2011, is one such social entrepreneur who is taking advantage of a new initiative at Ashoka that connects the needs of social entrepreneurs with leading law schools. After building a financial services company in the United States and leading an agribusiness social enterprise in Kenya, Madison combined the insights from his professional experiences to start Farm Shop, an organization that aims to increase the incomes of the entire supply chain of smallholder producers in Kenya by creating retail agri-inputs franchises. Farm Shop has the potential to dramatically improve the incomes and livelihoods of rural families in East Africa and possibly in other parts of the world. As Farm Shop expands, Madison has realized it needs a corporate form that better protects the social mission while facilitating the commercial scalability of the network.