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Falling in love with the problem: Ideas to Serve centers community partners and their local impact on the UNSDGs

Seven women leaders from Atlanta described their social enterprises.

Seven women leaders from Atlanta described their social enterprises.

By Susan Davis and Dóri Pap 

On Monday night, seven women leaders from Atlanta described their social enterprises, each accompanied by student teams who participated in this year’s Ideas to Serve Program, organized by the Institute for Leadership and Social Impact. The students deftly highlighted what they had learned about the social issues each partner was addressing, using storytelling, data visualization, and stakeholder mapping.  They learned and practiced these skills during workshops across the Social Impact course this semester and ongoing conversations with the partners. Two additional teams - from the Global Development Minor - used surveys, and stakeholder interviews to map the system around the social and environmental issues they explored. All teams identified the local impact of UNSDGs.



A lively showcase followed the presentations, where attendees were asked to share their networks and wisdom with the partners and the students. 

This year’s program aimed to provide value to the partners with a stakeholder map and data visualizations that they could use to develop or adapt strategies, identify new allies or customers, and secure funding. 

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What partners said they learned: 

“I couldn’t have gotten my business up and running without the intern’s help.”

“Valuable to see data visualized - it’s more powerful to see it this way.”

“Having to explain the problem and what I do to someone completely unfamiliar with it was useful to clarify messaging. I realized there are connections that aren’t clear to others.”


What students said they learned:

“I learned more about how nonprofits work; I didn’t realize they could just be a few people trying to address an issue.”

“It was eye-opening to hear tonight how many of these issues were connected - food, housing, history, poverty.”


Ideas to Serve Students

Georgia Tech leaders in attendance were impressed to see the evolution of the Ideas to Serve program. “I was so glad to see that they weren’t trying to offer quick solutions to complex problems,” one said. Instead of encouraging students to develop solutions, this year’s contest centered on the partners and the problems. The students demonstrated mindsets and tools for deeply understanding the root causes of social problems, what we call “falling in love with the problem”. We believe these skills will lead to empathetic imagination as they become leaders in any sector. Social change is not just brought about by non-profits. In fact, broad and lasting change involves people across government, industry, utilities, and education.

This year’s program was made possible by the generous contribution of:

2022 Ideas to Serve sponsors are The Cecil B. Day Program for Business Ethics, the Center for Serve - Learn - Sustain, The Denning Technology & Management Program, Center for International Business Education and Research, Design Bloc, VentureLab, Global Development Program at Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business, Scheller College of Business, Mosley Ventures, Speechworks, Georgia Social Impact Collaborative.


Congratulations to Team Best Fit (founder Asha Owens) for their selection as the Map the System Global Challenge finalists. Team members: Kimaya Colaco (CS), Andrew Todd (BA), and Mithil Verma (CS) will represent Georgia Tech at the global finals at the University of Oxford, England in June. Teams from leading universities worldwide will gather to present their findings  - that result from a deep dive into a social issue – in front of an audience of leading social impact practitioners at the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship.

Map the System – similar to Ideas to Serve -  was designed to change the conversation in social impact education — moving from an overemphasis on the ‘heropreneur’ and new ‘solutions’ (typically in the form of a new proposed program or social venture) — toward a focus on a deep understanding of complex problems as the foundation for driving transformational change. Team Best Fit will present the non-academic barriers to college graduation.

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