Innovation is what fuels our world, pushing our society forwards toward a more advanced future. When people think of innovation, their minds often are directed towards technological advancements such as the increasing prevalence of self-driving cars or topics like the controversy of genetically modified “designer” babies. Consequently, social innovation is not exactly the first thing to pop up in someone’s mind despite being the form of innovation that pushes our society forward towards a better and more equitable future.
To me, one of the most beautiful core tenets of social innovation is its commitment to addressing problems faced by populations whose needs are underserved or unmet. In a world where greed pollutes the minds of many, an innovator requires a great deal of empathy to look past innovating for more profitable populations to innovating to serve neglected populations. In high school, I took a class called “Design Engineering for Social Good” where I worked with a team of students to identify problems faced by an underserved population and design solutions to address them. The stories of social innovators both inspired and empowered me, showing me a vision of whom I wanted to be in the future. As a result of this experience, I worked with my team to develop affordable, portable housing to serve the homeless population in San Francisco. Still feeling inspired, after this course, I worked with a group of students to develop a belt for the visually impaired population that prevented collisions of blind individuals with high-speed traffic. These early experiences were the catalysts to my subsequent interest in the Innovation & Entrepreneurship program at Duke and social innovation, in a broader sense, as well.
Working for TechTown, I have been able to see the philosophy that started me on my journey in social innovation reflected in their mission, and consequently, in all the employees at TechTown as well. Upon meeting more and more TechTown employees, it has been heart-warming to see that all the employees share the common thread of having chosen to work for the company due to a strong belief in its mission. TechTown embodies the spirit of social innovation in its desire to revive Detroit’s economy through incubating and providing help to Detroit startups in need of assistance. Not only are they micro-influencing the lives of members of the community of Detroit, but at the same time, TechTown also bears an influence upon the broader economy of Detroit.
As such, I feel an incredible amount of empowerment as I begin my two-month-long journey with TechTown. I am excited to both help the company and learn from my time here. I hope that this first-hand experience working with the changemakers of today's world can better inform how I can become a changemaker of the future.