Social Impact Program is Redefined at Tulane

Tulane students are developing social enterprises across New Orleans and around the world, and they are doing so with training and support from the university’s in house accelerator, Changemaker Institute​. Recent Changemaker Institute graduate, Haley Burns, now a senior, created Fund17, a micro-finance institution that provides New Orleanians financial education and funding for small business development. Doug Jacobs developed VertiFarms, a
company that helps local businesses, schools, and others grow fresh food onsite using vertical aeroponic systems. Twenty-twelve Changemaker Institute graduate, Anoop Jain, developed Humanure Power, a non-profit that builds community toilets which convert human waste into energy for household use in India. Since 2010, Changemaker Institute has equipped almost forty students with the skills they need to launch and sustain social ventures.
Anticipating Changemaker Institute’s fifth cohort in spring 2015, staff considered new facets of growth for the program. How could the Institute expand its teaching to participants beyond the scope of its spring workshops? How should it engage community experts in mentoring participants? How might it develop an alumni program for networking current students and Changemaker Institute graduates?
To gain an outside perspective in answering these big questions, Changemaker Institute engaged in a unique partnership. They worked with a businesses accelerator that launches new organizations in New Orleans each week of the year. 52Businesses has lots of experience teaching entrepreneurs the foundations of what it takes to be successful in a short period of time, just as does Changemaker Institute.
With 52Businesses’ help, Changemaker Institute revisited its program, from recruitment, to content and instruction, to follow-up and long-term engagement with graduates. Through 52Businesses’ intensive five-day boot-camp, Changemaker Institute’s four-person team of staff and student fellows developed new practices and procedures for communication and project management, formulated a revised plan for workshop content in 2015, and expanded outreach goals for participants, program speakers, and mentors. The Changemaker Institute team mapped how it would achieve short and long-term benchmarks in terms of learning outcomes, community impact, and publicity with well-structured, actionable plans. 52Businesses’ boot-camp aligned the Changemaker Institute team around a common vision for the program’s growth and helped chart the way forward.
Having piloted the accelerator program itself, Tulane is now matching student-led social ventures, including Changemaker Institute alumni, with 52Businesses’ bootcamp. 52Businesses has now worked with Birthmark Doulas, founded by Tulane alumna, Dana Keren, and is next working with the Changemaker Institute alumni who created, Crescent City Connections and Fund17. Keren marveled at how much she was able to accomplish working with 52Businesses just one week, stating “I’m so glad to have been connected with them [52Businesses]. They helped me really focus on what goals I could achieve first and prioritize what was most important”.
By Jennifer McNulty, Senior Program Coordinator of Social Innovation Engagement at the Center for Engaged Learning at Tulane University.
Applications to participate in Changemaker Institute in spring 2015 are due November 1st, 2014. Information sessions will be held October 23 and 27, 2014. For more information on Changemaker Institute, visit or email