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Illinois Social Innovation

At Illinois Social Innovation (ISI), our mission is clear: We provide innovative coursework and experiential learning to enable an inclusive network of changemakers to co-create innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing social and environmental problems.

Welcome to Illinois Social Innovation

Benefits of Participation

  • Learn about our specialized courses in social entrepreneurship and innovation.
  • Become eligible for social venture seed capital and our mini-grants program.
  • Receive targeted mentoring and coaching to help develop your social venture ideas.
  • Participate in credit-bearing social impact consulting and action learning projects.
  • Contribute your skills to community groups and nonprofit organizations.

Our commitment to the ISI mission drives our key aims and strategies:

Supporting and Training Future Leaders of Social Enterprise

ISI is dedicated to enhancing co-curricular opportunities for social ventures and entrepreneurship. In collaboration with the Origin Ventures Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership (OVAEL), we offer programs such as the Women in Entrepreneurship Series, Map the System, and the Illinois Impact Incubator. These initiatives aim to train and nurture future leaders of social enterprises. We are continually expanding opportunities for specialized and inclusive entrepreneurship to promote diversity, equity, and inclusivity in the realm of social innovations.

Enlisting the Wider Student Body in Social Innovation Activities

We recognize that not all students aspire to launch social ventures, yet many are passionate about social innovation and impact. ISI is strategically filling curricular gaps by offering programs in nonprofit or social impact management, social design, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) integration, and mission-driven careers. We aim to provide a clear entry point for students, staff, and faculty with innovative ideas for social impact. Our efforts include the Social Innovation Leadership Series, support for registered student organizations, the social design certificate, and an action learning arm in partnership with the Magelli Office of Experiential Learning.

Engaging Communities for Innovative and Actionable Insights

Understanding the user experience is crucial for effective social innovations. ISI creates a platform for practitioners and local experts to exchange ideas and insights, ensuring that our social innovations address real-world needs. We host social innovation workshops in partnership with the Siebel Center for Design, facilitate experiential learning with nonprofits and social purpose organizations through the UIUC Community Learning Lab, and WeCU. We also prioritize working in engaged partnerships with community organizations such as the Community Solutions Incubator and the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois.

Convening and Mobilizing Knowledge for Social Innovation

ISI’s strength lies in its ability to bring together people from different sectors and disciplines. We seek collective social impact by forging internal partnerships with other colleges and units, as well as external partnerships with other universities and professional networks. We are actively growing an alumni board connect initiative to engage alumni as mentors in areas such as impact investing, social enterprise, and nonprofit management. Moreover, we lead convenings for the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) to promote collective social innovation education and impact at IIN hubs.

Vision and Strategy

Background: Illinois Social Innovation (ISI) was established in response to the Chancellor’s 2013 Visioning Future Excellence charge to address the deficit in social innovation on campus. Initially formed through collaboration between the School of Social Work, Gies College of Business, the College of Fine and Applied Arts, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and the Origin Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership, ISI has evolved over the years.

Social innovation within higher education is a multifaceted concept. At UIUC, we define social innovation as the result of processes that lead to new solutions that effectively meet social needs. It encompasses both the social impact of the product and the innovative process that brings about new products and services. This definition guides our initiatives and helps us focus on areas of strength within the UIUC ecosystem.

At Illinois Social Innovation, we are committed to driving positive social change through education, collaboration, and innovation. Join us on our journey to make a meaningful impact on the world’s most pressing challenges.


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