Mason Receives Award for Social Entrepreneurship Project

Posted: May 5, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Dave Andrews

There’s more to Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., than politics and defense intelligence. Another main regional focus – recently given added emphasis from the Obama administration – is social change involving not-for-profit organizations and international development.

Mason was recently awarded a Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Award by Gov. Tim Kaine as part of the university’s partnership with the Phoenix Project, a Virginia-initiated project to develop and implement effective social media tools to create high-quality student service learning.

The award highlights the “efforts of outstanding citizens of the Commonwealth who seek to enhance the lives of others in their communities. The awards are presented to groups, individuals and families whose efforts exemplify extraordinary volunteer service,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.

“I offer sincere congratulations to the volunteers who made a difference in the lives of others this year,” Kaine said during the awards ceremony. “When we serve our community as volunteers, our unique skills, perspectives and experience make us a stronger Commonwealth.”

Philip Auerswald, an assistant professor of public policy who directed Mason’s involvement with the Phoenix Project, says this recognition positions Mason well to launch future social entrepreneurship initiatives.

“Our mission in partnering with the Phoenix Project was not simply to increase volunteerism among Mason students this year,” says Auerswald, “but rather to build a social networking infrastructure that would draw students to engage and collaborate on service activities at a level not previously attained.”

Mason was selected to partner with the Phoenix Project because of its expertise in technology and ability to evaluate the program to provide the tools necessary that enable university students to engage in community service.

Mason has also been heralded for its publication of Innovations, one of just two major journals in the country focusing on social entrepreneurship. It is published jointly by Mason, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The editors of Innovations have produced special editions for each of the previous two World Economic Forum annual meetings.

This year of social entrepreneurship at Mason got off to a strong start when Mason was chosen by Ashoka – a global organization supporting entrepreneurship – as one of four universities to participate in the pilot year of its “Changemaker Campus” initiative. The year-long program partnered student and faculty teams at Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland and Mason to “use an entrepreneurial approach to develop high-impact programs for social entrepreneurship on their respective campuses.”

The momentum of these activities, Auerswald notes, was reinforced last month when students involved in the Changemaker Campus initiative developed a proposal for Mason’s Quality Enhancement Plan. The proposal, “Social Innovators and Social Entrepreneurs: 21st -Century Leaders of Change” has been selected as one of three finalists for adoption.

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