The Center for Social Impact officially launched in 2014 to catalyze action-based efforts for preparing and inspiring leaders to tackle social challenges. While based at the Ross School of Business, the key tenets of the center include working across disciplines, schools, and sectors on practical learning experiences that also produce positive social outcomes.
The University of Michigan has a long history and vibrant ethos of civic and community engagement; as the top public university in the world, its reputation as a steward of social impact has deep roots. The Ross School also has been a pioneer in its efforts to utilize management principles for the benefit of society.
The formation of a new Center for Social Impact consolidated successful legacy programs along with pilot initiatives launched by founding managing director and Ross alumnus Rishi Moudgil. Long-running historical programs started from the early nineties and continue in different forms today.
In 1992, the School of Business launched the Domestic Corps program.
The new Corps grew out of founding director Marian Krzyzowski’s “MBA Corps” that sent students abroad to emerging economies such as Poland and Russia for management consulting. The students were subsequently sent to domestic community organizations and nonprofits to advance mission-critical goals. Leveraging business school talent for domestic community impact was a pioneering effort, and was developed into a robust summer internship program for dozens of MBAs annually. Initial community partners included the Navajo Nation and Detroit’s own Focus:HOPE.
The program evolved into the Center’s Impact Corps, which provide strategic solutions and implementation for a wide range of social impact organizations.
In 1997, the University of Michigan schools of business, public policy, and social work launched a Nonprofit and Public Management (NPM) Center.
Founding director Janet Weiss of the Ross and Ford schools envisioned NPM as a cross-discipline research center, and grew into a space for students to work side-by-side with nonprofits and government. Shared interests across schools and sectors led to internships, speakers, and new courses. Many impact-focused students were involved in the center’s Student Advisory Board and other activities.
Beginning in 2014, a few NPM programs shifted to the Center for Social Impact and a revamped NPM relocated to the Ford School of Public Policy with a research focus.
In 2003, one of the first and longest running Board Fellowship programs began.
NPM co-founder Diana Vinokur originally designed this program for graduate business students to be placed on nonprofit governing boards across southeast Michigan. Original partners included the Corner Health Center of Ypsilanti, YMCA of Metro Detroit, and University Musical Society among many others. Board Fellows expanded to social work and public policy, and eventually included graduate and professional students across campus, placing hundreds over the years.
This popular program migrated to the Center for Social Impact to continue engagement with leading nonprofit boards.
In 2014 the Center for Social Impact merged legacy programs with new innovations.
The Center for Social Impact’s founding director Rishi Moudgil sought to address the growing interest around social innovation and social entrepreneurship. A number of new initiatives were piloted on campus to create broad and deep experiences for students to deliver social impact, including:
- 2012: Social Impact Challenge – an all-campus engagement for collective problem-solving around a complex social issue. Partners included the City of Detroit, Detroit Future City, and Education Pioneers.
- 2013: U-M Social Innovation Summit – regional gathering for hundreds of students, community members, and leaders in innovation that address social issues. Themes included Exploring Social Funding Methods and Finding Purpose through your career.
- 2014: Social Impact Track – in partnership with the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies’ Michigan Business Challenge, preparing social entrepreneurs to launch ventures through a business planning competition.
- 2015: Impact Corps – deep student engagements as consultants, interns, researchers, and partners for organizations in areas such as impact investing, social enterprise management, and cross-sector community development.