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Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship

“Changes are products of intensive efforts."

Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus originated microfinancing through his Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in the 1970s, and for his widespread efforts at breaking the cycle of poverty, Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. More important, microfinancing is now used worldwide as a tool for economic empowerment among people who had long been ignored by traditional banking systems. Yunus is a pioneering social entrepreneur and social innovator.

Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship 

Social entrepreneurship involves creating new products or services to address social or environmental needs. The products and/or services are made available through existing market structures. These are enterprises with a social betterment goal that are structured to make a profit. This business model creates shared value, meaning that the organization simultaneously generates financial benefits and environmental and/or social benefits.

Social innovation is about creating new social structures that allow issues of justice, education, environmental protection, sustainability and/or community development to be reframed so that new solutions can come forward. Social innovators question the premises on which existing social structures are built and then reimagine systems and institutional relationships to bring about change. The distinction between social entrepreneurship and social innovation is fluid, and there is often overlap between the two changemaking approaches.

Social innovation and social entrepreneurship may work through a variety of organizational architectures to enable change. We can think about organizations as being on a spectrum: At one end of the spectrum are not-for-profit entities that fill vital social and environmental needs through traditional charitable approaches, relying on donations as their primary source of funding. At the other end of the spectrum are for-profit businesses that fill customer needs through market-based mechanisms: selling the product or service for what the market will bear. Many for-profit companies incorporate sustainability and socially responsible practices into their operations and culture, but they are still primarily focused on the financial bottom line. In between these two ends of the spectrum are a range of organizational architectures that innovatively address social and environmental needs by developing new products and services and/or through creative structures for the delivery of these products and services. This space between traditional not-for-profit and traditional for-profit organizations encompasses social innovators and social entrepreneurs. 


Dickinson’s certificate in social innovation and entrepreneurship (SINE) is about change and creating pathways for student-led change in our world. The college was founded on the premise of educating leaders for our new democracy when the country was in its infancy, and the college continues this important mission of educating leaders for the future. The SINE certificate was developed to focus this effort by highlighting the critical thinking skills, creative mindset, and organizational development capabilities associated with positive change in our society and on behalf of our natural environment. The certificate builds on the college’s educational pillars of interdisciplinarity, global studies and sustainability. It captures the enthusiasm and energy our students are already exhibiting in co-curricular activities and organizations such as the Idea Fund.  And, it exemplifies these principles in the way in which it was developed: through a collaborative approach that included faculty across all three academic divisions, administrators, alumni, and students. The SINE certificate is our first curriculum that actively involved students—the Eco-E Path Mosaic students in Spring 2014—in its development.

Contact Info


Anthony UnderwoodAssociate Professor of Economics


Sumaiya QuayumAdministrative Assistant





Center for Sustainability Education
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