This is a sponsored post PCDN.
Perhaps it was kismet. Students from a peace school studying social innovation and enterprises in Rwanda just happen to be there right after a 25% reduction in refugee food support was announced and the headline of a national newspaper reads, “Does Rwanda need a law on social enterprises?” Rwanda is constantly juggling post-conflict transformation, economic growth and peace. In Rwanda, social innovation is applied peacebuilding, because the country recognizes that it needs innovation – in government, business, and development – for peace.
In January of 2018, nine students from the Kroc School of Peace Studies (Kroc School) completed a 10-day field-based practicum in Rwanda examining innovation in a post-conflict country. As part of the Kroc School’s groundbreaking new Master of Arts in Social Innovation (MASI), students observed and evaluated social programs and enterprises aimed at increasing development while preventing conflict.
MASI students experienced first-hand the impact of game-changing government policies, low-cost technologies transforming health systems and entrepreneurial solutions to pressing post-conflict issues. Instead of studying how to apply social solutions, students lived in a country-wide incubator, where every innovation, every action, had real world implications.
“There was an integrated approach to the course, in that we framed the ‘now’ of present-day Rwanda together with it’s past roots and future outlook.” Eric Gersbacher, MASI Class of 2018
Though known mostly for its genocide in 1994, Rwanda is also a testing ground for dynamic social policies and enterprises, each driven in some way by the country’s conflict-afflicted past. We visited local companies like Kasha, Question Coffee and Zipline, social enterprises that are redefining gender equity and increasing access to economic opportunities. The result was a practicum where every discussion was social innovation as peacebuilding, and peacebuilding as a social innovation. This shouldn’t have been a surprise. After all, at the Kroc School we teach our students that peacebuilding doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it happens across disciplines and with diverse approaches.
“The women in this co-op [Sustainable Harvest] are the face of resilience in Rwanda and around the globe. Provided with training, capacity building, and a support system, people can thrive after unthinkable pain.” Emily Pasnak-Lapchick, MASI Class of 2018
We left Rwanda with a sense that the entire experience encapsulates an emerging philosophy within Peace Studies — working across disciplinary, cultural, and political lines matters — but so does a recognition that grassroots economic development and social innovation requires a fresh range of actors and ideas.
The Master of Arts in Social Innovation is a platform—a place for students to develop tools that can change the world. The program is now entering its second year, with its deadline coming up on March 15, 2018. If you want the toolbox that will help you to jumpstart your Changmaking journey, apply to become a social innovator here: http://www.sandiego.edu/peace/programs/social-innovation/.