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New Social Impact and Innovation Center Funded With $10 Million Gift

February 11, 2014 – Georgetown yesterday announced a new center to promote collaboration among students, faculty and the private sector to foster innovation and provide a unique skill set to generate concrete, solution-based social change.

The Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovation, developed and made possible through a $10 million gift from philanthropist Alberto Beeck and his wife, Georgetown alumna Olga María (SFS’81), will provide training and a state-of-the-art laboratory to test new ideas and methods from students hoping to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.

“Our students are already starting companies out of their residence halls,” notes Georgetown Provost Robert Groves, who will serve as the center’s executive vice president. “They’re starting nongovernmental organizations and other entities that have common good purposes. The center is a campus-wide catalyst, coordinator and multiplier, and it will bring together many activities that are going on already.”

Mass Scale Problem-Solving

Georgetown professor Sonal Shah leads the Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovation as founding executive director. She served as director of the White House’s Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation before joining the university's faculty.

Georgetown students already have worked with rural cooperatives in Rwanda to design ways to monetize waste produced by chickens, for example, and helped to solve global humanitarian problems in the many areas of health, education and the environment.

Through the new center, students will learn how to design, organize and raise funds for careers in social impact, and be introduced to global leaders who will help with the incubation of their new ideas for small businesses or nonprofits.

“Social impact and innovation ideas merge with what’s happening in the nonprofit, for-profit and government sectors to solve social problems on a mass scale,” says Sonal Shah, the center’s founding executive director.

Feb. 11 Launch

Sonal Shah

Shah, former director of the White House’s Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, is a now a professor at Georgetown. She also serves as a senior fellow at the Case Foundation and the Center for American Progress.

The Case Foundation recently provided a $100,000 grant to Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business to explore opportunities to increase social impact investing.

Georgetown celebrates the launch of the new center today with a symposium featuring key thought leaders from the social innovation sector, including Jean Case, interactive technology pioneer and the co-founder and CEO of the Case Foundation.

Pam Omidyar, humanitarian co-founder of the Omidyar Group, Salim Ismail, founding executive director of Singularity University, and Case will be speakers at the symposium. Workshops include one on design thinking with Nadia Roumani of the d.school Institute of Design at Stanford University and a storytelling session with Ellen Roche and Cecili Thompson Williams of Free Range Studios. Watch the live webcast at 1 p.m.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

While the university currently offers courses and programs that focus on social enterprise, social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility in some of its schools, the new center will be open to all Georgetown students.

Alberto and Olga Maria Beeck

Alberto and Olga María Beeck (SFS'81) gave Georgetown a $10 million gift for the university's new Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovation. The Beecks currently have two children studying in Georgetown College.

“I really think that this is going to become an important beacon in Washington, shining a light on the importance of social innovation and putting a focus on the entrepreneurial spirit and approaches in the social sector,” says Case, executive-in-residence at the McDonough School’s Global Social Enterprise Initiative. “[The Beeck Center] will have great value not just to students, but to faculty and global leaders from all sectors.”

The Beecks have two children studying at Georgetown College – Leticia, who will graduate in 2017, and Matias, a member of the Class of 2015.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Beeck family, Georgetown has new resources to address social challenges and explore innovative solutions,” says Georgetown President John J. DeGioia. “They understand how our institution values the ways in which what we learn and teach can be deployed to create real benefit and greater welfare in the world.”

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