Jenny Melo

From Chile, Building Social Entrepreneurship in a ’Space of Spaces’

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in NextBillion en Espanol and may be found here.

The second Social Entrepreneurship Month 2011 (MES2011): “Social Innovation + Education” recently launched in Chile. This is a “space of spaces” is organized by the University of Chile’s Faculty of Economics and Business and the Extension Department of the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism; and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile’s Public Policy Center, which aspires to provide the opportunity to showcase various social innovation experiences to urge citizens to become change agents.

I had the opportunity to speak with Gianncarlo Durán*, co-founder of MES, to learn more about this initiative.

NextBillion en Español: What was the motivation that drove the creation of MES?

Durán: Society wants a different world, and that different world can be achieved through collaborative, multi-sectorial work, which is to say, from every sector of society: the public sector, private sector, and civil society. But within each sector, where can academia be found?

There is talk of entrepreneurship and social innovation around the world. We understand that social entrepreneurs really committed to the cause may very well change their particular field just a few years after the implementation of their model.

These concepts are coming to Chile slowly, but with great intensity. But what is the role of academia in developing social innovation initiatives in partnerships with other sectors?

That is the MES’s motivation: empowering the university so that we too can be change agents. And what better way to empower them than showing initiatives, projects, organizations … People, after all, who themselves are contributing, also want to work with academia.

NextBillion en Español: What are the challenges and lessons of driving social innovation initiatives in academia?

Durán: One topic that comes across as both a challenge and a lesson is empathy. Despite their vast experiences in all areas of knowledge, there is a topic that is not necessarily in books, workshops, laboratories, centers, or departments. It is the space where social problems act, and the people who, by relating to this space, develop a desire for change. This is an area that is difficult to reach, but not impossible. For academia to get to know backgrounds, it should be involving directly with those who live, and so, be able to act appropriately. I believe that it has the tools to do it the best way, and that is what we want to take advantage of at MES.

Another challenge, as with all sorts of collective spaces, is the convocation. But we are going gradually and on the right track.

NextBillion en Español: How does this space of spaces function?

Durán: “Month” is a concept that speaks of temporality. Limited to 30 days. We commit to at least develop annually an agenda for an entire month of innovation and social entrepreneurship. Hence we can say that MES is a space (temporary). But within MES a lot of other things happen.

MES offers space to anyone who has the willingness and desire to motivate change, letting them display, reflect on, think of, and implement models of social innovation. We are committed to being a collective space, uniting change agents or people who have the potential to be, with an agenda of activities and permanent links by means of a virtual platform; a network space, connecting organizations and social innovation projects with university space; a link-space, spreading MES spaces within the existing interactive relationship between academia and the external environment; and a proactive-space, developing moments of creative activity, prototyping ideas and solution to social problems.

There you have it, a space of spaces.

NextBillon en Español: Tell us about the theme of Social Innovation + Education this year and your expectations thereof.

Durán: Last year being the first version of MES, our intention was to install the theme within the University, for discussion and reflection. Our premise was that social innovation is possible in any area of knowledge. That’s why the theme was “MES2010 Diversity and Innovation.”

The theme this year corresponds with our commitment to national events. The theme here today presents both streets of our country, as in the agenda of various representatives of all social sectors.

The main objective this year is to spread social innovation experiences that developed through formal and informal educative models and practices; show what is being done, both inside and outside the University, to socially innovate in spaces where knowledge is generated.

It’s also because the two most influential universities in the country are participating this year: the University of Chile, through the NexoRSU Unit of the Faculty of Economics and Business, and the Extension Department of the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism; and the Pontifical Catholic University, through the Public Policy Center.

We hope to contribute to the dialogue about the development of new practices in the educational field, and to open a space to devise and provide multiple answers to the educational problems today.

NextBillion en Español: What type of activities will take place at MES from October 17 to November 18? Who will be able to participate?

Gianncarlo Durán: We will conduct a series of activities open both to the academic world and the external environment, where they can actively participate in meetings of experts, workshops where those same experts will deliver important tools to innovate and enterprise socially; discussion groups, which are more intimate than conferences, are without hierarchy and with an “open mic;” and lastly, the DesafíoMES, which this year we are doing with LEIS (Laboratory of Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation) where we will invite to propose from open online forms (on our Facebook) social innovation in education, that will have to be carried to an image. This will be uploaded to Facebook and everyone will be able to vote. The winners, selected by the most votes (“Likes”) together with a jury’s analysis, will receive an iPad 2, professional advice for making the project a reality, and access to a network of contacts to help spread their ideas.

All of the activities are open to whoever wants to participate. Some, because of space issues, have limited capacity, but there are no other limitations. The registration form is on our website.

Here is MES’s complete agenda: MES 2011 Press Release

*Gianncarlo Durán is an Industrial Designer at the University of Chile, General Coordinator of the Process of Curricular Innovation of the Design course, and member of the Pregrado School Team of the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at the same university. He began his teaching career in 2007 while still a student, continuing later for a degree until this day, always focusing on design as a discipline linked to social agents. In 2010, motivated to research international models of social entrepreneurship, Durán became a volunteer for Ashoka Innovators for the Public, which developed into a two month internship in India. In this timeframe he attended a TECH4Society global meeting, where he met and interviewed world leaders in this field. He also worked as a volunteer at Ashoka India , Indicorps , Kala-Raksha y Ashoka ConoSur.

During that same year, with Gabriela Valenzuela and Ana Estenssoro, Durán founded MES as a way to link and commit the academic world to social development and innovation in solving social problems.

Social Enterprise
social enterprise