Wentworth Launches Social Innovation Lab

May 23, 2013

Students gather for the "huddle."

Students gather for the "huddle."

Boston, MA – May 23, 2013 – Wentworth Institute of Technology announced today the launch of a Social Innovation Lab that will provide students the opportunity to focus on product and technology innovations that impact communities and improve people’s lives. Building upon Wentworth’s focus on the importance of interdisciplinary education, the first iteration of the lab will bring together a peer group of five students from different academic disciplines to generate ideas for possible solutions to meaningful social problems.

The initial summer programming includes workshops and events focused on identifying needs, building community engagement, generating ideas and design thinking, and advancing sustainable innovation and social entrepreneurship. The format is designed to bring together social innovators, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and students in an effort to work on solutions and learn from each other.

Two examples of ideas being worked on in the Social Innovation Lab include a portable infusion harness to give patients undergoing infusion treatments a level of freedom and mobility that is currently unachievable and a device that will provide visually impaired people more access and safety through audio signal technology. Both ideas were generated by student teams—Gentoo and Sonas, respectively—that participated in Wentworth’s innovation and entrepreneurship challenge, Accelerate, during the spring semester.

As part of the Social Innovation Lab, students will work closely with Wentworth’s first Innovator-in-Residence Jeanne Dasaro, a Boston-based community builder, digital storyteller, and social entrepreneur. She will be a valuable resource for students to access for mentoring opportunities and networking, and will also play a proactive role in generating innovation-related programming. Students will also engage high school student entrepreneurs from a local entrepreneurial program to foster collaboration, exchange ideas, and receive feedback. This exposure to innovation seeks to strengthen student interest in educational and career opportunities in the engineering, technology, and design disciplines.

“Many ideas developed as part of our innovation and entrepreneurship challenge, Accelerate, were product and technology solutions focused on social impact,” said Monique Fuchs, associate vice president of innovation and entrepreneurship. “The Social Innovation Lab takes them to the next level and is a catalyst for students to create more systemic, sustainable, and meaningful solutions.

The Social Innovation Lab focuses on four phases:

  • Uncover – students will uncover and analyze a problem to truly understand the challenge.
  • Ideate – students will utilize the insights of peers, mentors, Wentworth’s innovator-in-residence, and high school students to accelerate possible solutions and ideas.
  • Prototype – students will transform ideas into reality, by designing and testing early prototypes, soliciting stakeholder input, and evolving iteratively.
  • Launch – each student pitches their ideas and solutions with the intent of attracting support to help turn their ideas into the next social investments.

The Social Innovation Lab is a collaborative initiative between Accelerate, Wentworth’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Challenge, and the Center for Community and Learning Partnerships, and it will run throughout the summer semester.


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