• Projects and Research

    Through events, courses, workshops, and an innovation competition, the Social Innovation Initiative supports the efforts of students and faculty to creatively address contemporary environmental and social challenges.

  • New Challenge: The New School's Innovation Competition

    New Challenge, The New School’s annual social innovation student competition, began its second year in fall 2012. New School students committed to working on local and global challenges can enter to win financial awards of up to $10,000 as well as invaluable support, including mentoring and skill-building workshops. Reflecting The New School’s diverse and creative academic community, New Challenge encourages students to submit entries of all types (ideas for new products or services, social ventures, policy-oriented initiatives, performance projects, films, technology apps). Participating in New Challenge enables students to become part of a dynamic community of student changemakers across The New School.

    Social Innovation Speaker Series

    The Social Innovation Speaker Series is an opportunity for students, faculty, and the public to learn from experienced professionals in the field of social innovation.

    Past events include

    November 7, 2012—"Engaging Communities for Change": A panel discussion with activists and social innovators who share a commitment to designing solutions with and empowering communities. Featuring Edgar Cahn, founder of TimeBanks USA (Ashoka Fellow); Miguel Robles-Duran, organizer of Nomadic University and director of Design and Urban Ecologies at Parsons The New School for Design; and Gregory Van Kirk, founder of Community Enterprise Solutions (Ashoka Fellow). Moderated by David Scobey, executive dean of The New School for Public Engagement. Watch complete footage of this event here.

    February 6, 2012—“Filmmaking as Social Innovation”: A panel discussion with three award-winning filmmakers who use the power of media to promote social change. Featuring David France, producer, director, and writer of How to Survive a Plague and contributing editor of GQ and New York magazine; Linda Goode Bryant, co-producer, director, and writer of Flag Wars and founder of the Active Citizen Project and Project EATS; and Robin Hayes, producer and director of Beautiful Me(s) and professor at The New School for Public Engagement. Moderated by Tony Whitfield, associate dean for Civic Engagement at Parsons The New School for Design.

    Creative Initiatives and Research Laboratories Projects

    Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability (DESIS) Lab

    Led by Parsons The New School for Design and The New School for Public Engagement, the DESIS Lab brings together faculty and students from across disciplines to research, develop, and promote community-based solutions for sustainability in New York City. The establishment of the DESIS Lab reflects The New School's commitment to playing a leading role in the emerging field of design for social change and social innovation.

    Faculty contact: Eduardo Staszowski

    Development through Empowerment, Entrepreneurship and Design (DEED)

    DEED is a collaborative effort between students and faculty of The New School, indigenous artisan groups in the developing world, donors and foundations, and retailers. It supports scholarship and research relating to design, development, entrepreneurship, and empowerment.

    Faculty contacts: Fabiola Berdiel and Cynthia Lawson


    PETLab (Prototyping, Evaluation, Teaching and Learning lab) develops games and interactive media that encourage experimental learning and investigation of social and global issues. Past projects range from a curriculum in game design for the Boys and Girls Club to games for disaster preparedness with the Red Cross/Red Crescent to big games such as Re:Activism and the fiscal sport Budgetball, played annually on the National Mall between college students and members of Congress and the White House. PETLab was launched in 2007 with funding from the MacArthur Foundation.

    Faculty contact: Colleen Macklin

    The Community Development Finance Lab

    Community-based organizations of all kinds must now operate within sophisticated private capital markets rather than relying on government and philanthropic sources of funds. Many of these organizations lack the skills to use these markets to their advantage. This project teaches graduate students of the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy to speak the language of Wall Street and apply sophisticated financial skills directly as consultants to community projects in real time. Read more about the Community Development Finance Lab.

    Faculty contact: Kevin McQueen


    DREAM:IN is an ongoing exploration of dreams in India. Rather than focusing on what is and what has been, DREAM:IN explores what can be. Dreamcatchers, 101 selected Indian students, will traverse rural and urban India, questioning local people about their dreams and aspirations—for family, work, recreation, products, and services—and capturing them on video. They are expecting to collect thousands of dreams to analyze as the basis for new development projects. DREAM:IN partners with Parsons The New School for Design. Visit the partnership's blog for more information and event updates.

    Faculty contacts: Carlos Texeira and Bruce Nussbaum 
    The Julien J. Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs Field Program (IFP)

    Parsons Green Supply Center and the Green List

    The goal of the Parsons Green Supply Center is to redirect for creative reuse the waste streams produced by all programs. The Green Supply Center keeps reusable materials out of landfills and puts them into the hands of Parsons students and faculty. The Green Supply Center stores plywood and solid wood off-cuts, discarded metal, fabric remnants, furniture, electronics, and many more materials for use without limits and without cost. Every school at Parsons contributes materials to the center, as do students, faculty, and staff, and everyone is welcome to take materials for reuse. The Green List is a place where students and faculty at the New School can buy, sell, and trade art supplies, textbooks, clothing, and other school items in a forum much like an online classified ads site. Both projects, which involve the simple and immediate loop of collection and redistribution, put into practice our institution's commitment to adopt sustainable practices wherever possible and to promote ecological literacy.

    Working with People

    For three years, the research and curriculum-development project “ Working with People” has been investigating and developing innovative pedagogical approaches to this growing field of design and liberal arts practice at The New School. The project seeks to foster critical conversations around “civic engagement” and the pedagogy and politics of teaching “with communities," and has developed a curriculum and online resource investigating the critical keywords in these contexts.

    Faculty contacts: Shana Agid and Gabrielle Bendenir-Viani

    More Innovative Projects and Research at The New School

    Visit the Social Innovation Initiative Blog for upcoming events, grant and funding opportunities, and fellowships at The New School and beyond. If you do not see your project on this list but think we should know about it, contact the Social Innovation Initiative at tnschangemakers@newschool.edu.