Age-old issues of homelessness, poverty and hunger take on a new spin as budding social entrepreneurs gather to exchange ideas at Arizona State University’s Changemaker Central.
Changemaker Central is a collaborative campus work space packed with resources, technological tools and networking opportunities. The goal of the program is to empower students to apply their education, expertise and passion for positive social progress and life-long civic engagement. As a result, students who use the center are better able to launch productive ventures that meet both a market need and a societal need.
“Changemaker Central connects students with the resources to make a positive impact in their local and global community,” said Mina Ahmad, coordinator of Changmaker Central. “Whether through volunteering or developing solutions to challenges we face, students have a space on campus to be inspired to make change in the world.”
The program began in fall of 2010 when ASU was selected as a Changemaker Campus by Ashoka U, a global organization that works to solve social issues through entrepreneurship at universities. An ASU student-led steering committee tailored the program to fit the ASU community and formed a leadership team. That team reached out to students and community members to work together for social change.
ASU sophomore Kaitlyn Fitz, director of the Student Leadership Team at Changemaker Central, said she has gained priceless professional development by participating in the student-led program.
In October, Fitz and others in the organization partnered with The Little Red Wagon Foundation and Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development in a backpack drive for homeless youth that collected more than 100 backpacks.
“Changemaker Central is dedicated to creating a culture of service and entrepreneurship and it is an honor to be a part of that,” Fitz said. “We connect students to opportunities that empower them to have a positive social impact in the community… It’s incredible to engage with my peers in this manner.”
Fitz said she first heard about Changemaker when she participated in Ignite @ ASU, a signature program of Changemaker. The four signature programs that create support and increase access to early-stage seed funding include:
Ignite @ ASU: A public event that features rapid-fire 5-minute presentations that bring ASU students, faculty, staff and community members together to build more connected communities.
Innovation Challenge: Students can win up to $10,000 to make their innovative project, prototype, venture or community partnership ideas happen.
10,000 solutions: Leverages the power of collaborative imagination and innovation to create a solutions bank.
Devils in Disguise: Each March, this student-run day of service has student organizations host volunteer sites for fellow Sun Devils.
All four ASU campuses have Changemaker Central spaces connecting student organizations, entrepreneurship classes and other resources to help students reach their goals.
Fitz, a Global Studies major and Public Service and Public Policy Business major, said she has developed her skills in volunteer recruitment, management and service through the program. She hopes to one day use her education to promote economic development in developing nations through the development of sustainable education programs.
“My experience (with Changemaker Central) has been incredible,” Fitz said. “I have had the opportunity to work with the innovative and engaged students at ASU … and learned to think in ways I had not previously.”