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Social Innovation Lab
Social Innovation Lab Programs

Babson Social Innovation Lab

While the Lewis Institute is dedicated to drawing forth ideas through the meetings of diverse minds, the Babson Social Innovation Lab puts those ideas into action. New concepts in social innovation are prototyped, evaluated, and proved in real-world contexts. Funded by a two-year, $500,000 grant from the Toyota Foundation, the Babson Social Innovation Lab brings together a global, interdisciplinary community of students and mentors dedicated to building a better world.

The Social Innovation Lab employs Babson’s Uncommon Table methodology, which fosters “smart action” by bringing together diverse audiences with unique strengths and perspectives to address critical dilemmas facing the world. With this framework in place, the Social Innovation Lab currently is involved in three action projects:

Food Solutions (Food Sol)​

While 2 billion people in the world are starving, 1 billion are over consuming, and the population keeps growing. How we manufacture, grow, and distribute food is a problem. Food Sol seeks to influence a world where all people can fully nourish themselves, their families, and their communities.

Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship

The Babson Social Innovation Lab is supporting this joint course between Babson and the F.W. Olin School of Engineering. The goal is to incorporate principles of lean thinking as an integral part of the design process. Students will travel nationally and internationally to work with community partners in developing and deploying innovations that generate income and meet daily human needs.

Women’s Entrepreneurial Development Lab

Partnering with the International NGO Made By Survivors (MBS), the team in Babson’s Social Innovation Lab has created a “prosperity model” designed to help raise the social and economic status of marginalized female populations. ​​The Babson-MBS Prosperity Model is built upon three unique principles: 

  • A commitment to the large investment required to support women who have been constrained by poverty, discrimination, and the violence of forced marriage, marriage, domestic abuse, or trafficking as they move from social and economic marginalization to holistic prosperity. For MBS, that investment takes the form of substantial, innovative, college-level education in programs in entrepreneurship and design thinking, ongoing training in job skills and human rights; and, perhaps most importantly, a commitment to wages that are well above the standard low-level wage paid for handicrafts and other small-scale production in a majority of shelter home and NGO models. Indeed, MBS is currently benchmarking wages paid at its Kolkata jewelry production centers at approximately the level of a recent college graduate in India. 
  • A commitment to a migratory business and production model that will enable survivor-artisans to retain and leverage the job training skills received during their after-care treatment as they move back home to restart their lives. Currently, economic development programs are clustered in the destination sites where trafficking survivors who have been rescued are receiving aftercare. These sites are mostly in large Indian cities-Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Pune-which means that when survivors are repatriated to their homes in rural areas of Indian states or in neighboring countries such as Bangladesh or Nepal, all that they have gained by being part of a program such as MBS' jewelry training program will be lost (including the high wages that have enabled them to begin enjoying a free, independent, independent, sustainable life). MBS' migratory business model solves this problem by attending to the conditions of poverty, lack of opportunity, and discrimination in source communities that contribute to the problem of trafficking in the first place. 
  • A commitment to helping to eliminate gender discrimination by providing a range of choices in livelihood, e​ach of which comprises dignified, creative, creative, sustainable, high value employment within the context of socio-cultural norms around gender, caste, and class. Economic development programs established by MBS are carefully constructed in order to respond and to push past such barriers. For instance, because metal-smiting has been a traditionally male-only profession in India, MBS is proud to say that we have the first cohort of trained female metal-smiths in India, thereby enabling our survivor-artisans to help demonstrate within their communities the power and reward of breaking down traditional gender-based constraints.​