Students in discussion at the Changemaker Challenge.

Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The world’s most pressing challenges require leaders who are changemakers -- people who can develop empathetic, creative and scalable solutions. The Center for Social Impact’s Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation pathway prepares students to identify challenges they are uniquely positioned to impact; engage with affected communities; and practice empathy while they test, launch and sustain social impact ventures. You might combine these co-curricular opportunities with an academic major in social entrepreneurship or a minor in social innovation through the Leadership, Ethics and Values program.

Student Organizations

Whether you’re into fair trade businesses, music, community organizing, event planning, or traveling, our student organizations have you covered.

  • Students for Social Innovation (affiliated with Design for America) utilizes design thinking to address social challenges in the local community or on campus.  Students partner with local groups to understand needs, brainstorm ideas, and design, test, and implement practical solutions.
  • The Union is a student-run venue for social change. Hosting weekly concerts and events, The Union serves as a megaphone for local, national, and international social change efforts. The Union is also a learning lab for students interested in the music business industry, graphic design, event management, community partnerships, hospitality management and more!
  • Enactus: Students from all majors join the Enactus team to help small local and global entrepreneurs become financially sustainable. In particular, Enactus students run a coffee business that supports Guatemalan coffee farmers, and help operate North Central's Coffee Lab - a unique campus space to research, roast, package and sell their own brand of coffee.
A student band performing at The Union.

Funding Opportunities

Taking the first step toward being a changemaker sometimes requires a little financial boost. We offer access to multiple funding sources to help make your ideas a reality.

  • With the Mironda Heston Grant, students propose and implement a customized project in a local or international community. The grant provides up to $2,500 and the opportunity to explore a life of humanitarian service. Learn more on the Mironda Heston Grant web page.
  • Social Entrepreneurship Seed Funds help students take the first steps in launching their for-profit social businesses. Paired with mentoring and support from Center staff, students may use these funds for the initial start-up costs that might otherwise act as a barrier to changemaking.
  • Big Idea Grants can help students answer the question, “What if?” What if I could sit down for coffee with a leading non-profit director to learn about how to launch and run a humanitarian organization? What if I could pay for that webinar or weekend training course to better understand poverty and community development? Big Idea Grants are small amounts of money that can lead to big change.
A student pitching a social impact project at the Changemaker Challenge.

Courses to Consider

If you're interested in social entrepreneurship and innovation - even if you don't enroll in a major or minor - you'll want to add one or more of these courses to your list:

LEAD 100 – Design Thinking for Social Impact

LEAD 200 – Social Innovation

LEAD 300 – Social Entrepreneurship

Professor Whitney Roberts and her students presenting an infographic poster on social entrepreneurship.


Making a positive impact with your career starts with having a vision for your vocation. The Center for Social Impact maintains partnerships with leading local and national social enterprises where students can take the next steps in pursuing a life of deep meaning and purpose. In partnership with North Central’s Career Development Office, we connect students to internships with organizations like:

  • OWP Pharmaceuticals: Treating epilepsy in developing countries through an innovative business model.
  • Emmanuel House: Breaking the cycle of working class poverty through homeownership. Named one of the Top 100 Most Innovative Nonprofits and Social Enterprises of 2016.
  • Chelsea’s Light Foundation: Mobilizing a generation of changemakers through community engagement and protecting children through legislation.
Student interns meeting at OWP Pharmaceuticals.