Ryerson Joins Ivy League of Innovation

Photo provided by The Madeleine Collective and William Pemuils.

[N]ew to Ryerson is Ashoka U, a social initiative that helps make entrepreneurs’ dreams come to life while also promoting social good.

The Ashoka U program is designed to break down barriers to institutional change and foster a campus-wide culture of social innovation. The social initiative also creates a global network of entrepreneurial students, faculty and community leaders to help solve global challenges. Ryerson joins American institutions like Cornell and Brown and seems like a natural choice to be the first Canadian institution involved in the Ashoka U program.

“It recognizes Ryerson’s longstanding commitment to social involvement and combines it with research, initiative and innovation,” says Randy Boyagoda, director of zone learning at Ryerson.

Ashoka U was formed in 2008 and offers the Changemaker Campus designation to leading institutions in social innovation education. There are currently 24 institutions and Ashoka U hopes the program will grow to 30 schools by 2015.

Being a “Changemaker Campus” can potentially increase the impact of social ventures. Social involvement can include initiatives in themes that include poverty alleviation and development, human rights, diversity and inclusion, and sustainability. These themes are consistent with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Ashoka U builds on the success of the Digital Media Zone, one of Canada’s largest incubators and multi-disciplinary co-working spaces for entrepreneurs.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship, whether for profit or social good, require similar attitudes, knowledge and processes. Above all they require learning by doing,” said Ryerson’s vice president of research and innovation Wendy Cukier in a media release.

The Ryerson-led Madeleine Collective is a recent success story of Ashoka U. The team’s project is a photo series exploring Ryerson students’ experience with diversity. Partnering with photographer William Putz, the team received $5,000 in funding from the Ashoka U PhotoWings competition. The final piece will be showcased at the Ashoka U Exchange at Brown University from Feb. 20 t0 22.