The 2014 Faculty Institute: Social Entrepreneurship Across the Disciplines is a pilot project of the University of Iowa and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. The project was started through the University of Iowa’s Obermann Center for Advanced Studies’ Public Scholar program.
In Fall 2013, David Gould was named as the first Obermann Public Scholar. Gould, a former faculty member at the University of Iowa, began working in Las Vegas with The Downtown Project (DTP) in August 2013. He was invited there by DTP founder and Zappos executive Tony Hsieh. The DTP is at the beginning of what Gould has called “one of the greatest social experiments of our time” — essentially treating a city like a start-up by infusing a small area with funding and creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems, including high crime and poverty, poor healthcare and education, lack of fresh food, environmental barriers, and a deficit of public transportation.
Gould’s special area of interest in the DTP has been education, particularly higher education. The previous year, he brought a group of University of Iowa students to Las Vegas to explore social entrepreneurship on a real world canvas. The students were both personally transformed and did tranformative work, opening a healthy dessert shop. Several have since relocated to Las Vegas and many have altered their career and educational paths as a result.
Gould wanted to include his UI colleagues as he moved forward and also include UNLV, which although geographically close to downtown Las Vegas, had not yet been involved in the project. He started a listening group at the Obermann Center. The group wanted to learn more about how social entrepreneurship could be applied to the classroom, especially in unexpected disciplines. Their long-term hope was to gather ideas and methodology in Las Vegas that could potentially be translated to other communities, including in Iowa.
From May 27-30, 2014, twenty faculty and staff members from the two universities will meet in downtown Las Vegas, along with Eli Kauffman, a facilitator from the Los Angeles-based design thinking shop A Hundred Years. They will spend three intensive days learning about the DTP, the needs of urban Las Vegas, the history and theory of social entrepreneurship, and each other’s work. The group’s areas of expertise are wide ranging and include urban design and planning, women in the sex trade, incarcerated women, non-profits, classical music, digital design, and special education.
This blog is a space for them to collect ideas and resources.