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On May 12, the Monterey Institute announced the establishment of a new Center for Social Impact Learning (CSIL), which will bring three existing programs together under a single umbrella:

  • Frontier Market Scouts program, which provides graduate students from MIIS and other schools, as well as mid-career international professionals, with an intensive two-week training program followed by a six-month internship designed to prepare them for careers in impact investing and social venture management;
  • The Ambassador Corps, which will provide undergraduate students at Middlebury College and other schools with ten-week in-field learning experiences in development and business in underdeveloped and emerging economies; and
  • The Development Consulting Program, which will engage MIIS students as team members on projects initiated by some of the most reputable consulting firms to provide pro-bono consulting services to nonprofit organizations.

The latter two programs were created by the new center’s director, Jerry Hildebrand, who most recently headed the Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of the Pacific. Hildebrand was previously the CEO for 17 years of Katalysis Bootstrap Fund, a microfinance organization that provides training, technical assistance, and credit to non-governmental microfinance institutions in Central America. His decades of work in grassroots economic development began in Peru, where he served as one of pioneering Peace Corps volunteers in the early 1960s.

“The opportunity to create a groundbreaking Center for Social Impact Learning at MIIS is truly an enviable task,” said Hildebrand. “The MIIS faculty have already laid the foundation of a rigorous academic program, to which we will add a compelling and innovative experiential learning component. Students will be equipped with a practical problem-solving skill set that will be field tested throughout the developing world.”

The new center plans to develop an active research program on management issues in social venture and impact investing, leveraging existing experiential and professional learning programs. Managing the research program and the academic programming for CSIL is Dr. Yuwei Shi, dean of Graduate School of International Policy and Management at MIIS, who also founded the Frontier Market Scouts program. CSIL also expects to collaborate closely with Middlebury College’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship (CSE), which integrates social entrepreneurship and liberal arts education. According to economics professor Jonathan Isham, the CSE’s faculty director, “MIIS and Middlebury College students should celebrate this grand news. Jerry Hildebrand is one of the true leaders in social entrepreneurship education. My CSE colleagues and I look forward to building opportunities with Jerry and Yuwei, on behalf of students on both coasts.”

“This new venture is unique among the many social entrepreneurship programs in existence today,” noted Monterey Institute President Sunder Ramaswamy, “in that it is designed to serve the full spectrum of budding social entrepreneurs, from undergraduates to graduate students to young professionals. CSIL will offer them not only valuable learning experiences but also seamless transitions from one stage of professional development to the next as they prepare for careers in the social impact investing field.”

The Center for Social Impact Learning will be supported by a generous grant from the Cordes Foundation. The Cordes Foundation was created in 2006 by Ron and Marty Cordes following the sale of Ron’s company, AssetMark Investment Services. One of the major focuses of the foundation’s philanthropy continues to be supporting social entrepreneurship education. The foundation also funds the Cordes Innovation Awards given each year by Ashoka U; the Monterey Institute’s Frontier Market Scouts program won a Cordes award in 2013, and Middlebury’s MiddCORE program was a winner in 2014.

“We are excited to be a seed funder of this groundbreaking new initiative, which aligns our mission with the commitment of MIIS and Middlebury to equip the next generation of leaders in social entrepreneurship,” said Ron Cordes.

The center will formally launch at MIIS effective July 1, with related academic programming beginning in fall 2014.

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Jason Warburg

Eva Gudbergsdottir