Ready to take the L.E.A.P.? We’re here with you every step of the journey.

by Matt Fortier

We have an exciting student engagement program prepared for 2019, emblematic of the Beeck Center’s invigorated strategy and growing team. When I joined Beeck at the end of 2015, we were, as an organization, not yet two years old and very much in the exploratory phase of our work, engaging in a variety of projects from impact investing and data for social good, to evolving our flagship student engagement program, GU Impacts. At the verge of our 5-year anniversary, we still love to explore new ideas and concepts – that’s half the fun in our work in fact and core to our identity as an organization that thinks differently and learns from its failures as much as its successes – but we’re also applying a new rigor and proceeding with a sharper focus. Through previewing our Spring 2019 Student Engagement program and introducing our LEAP framework, we find a strong example of how the Beeck Center is maturing and progressing towards its goal of impact at scale.

The LEAP framework is grounded on the concept of a student’s journey in the social impact space. This journey invites students from across all Georgetown’s schools that have a range of interests and who will ultimately work across every sector. The journey is a progression that begins by establishing baseline knowledge and then builds on that knowledge through deeper learning that focuses on introspection, application, experience, and partnership. It pushes students to understand how systems work and to think about how they can be innovated upon to work better; to serve all people, and to promote equity. It pushes students out of their comfort zone and seeks to marry best practices in social impact education with an integration of our own leading-edge research.

In the first stage of the LEAP journey, students are introduced to a topic such as impact investing; they Learn. Last semester, students learned about impact investing and Opportunity Zones through our inclusive economies fireside chat with Nonprofit Finance Fund Director Antony Bugg-Levine and Beeck Center Resident Fellow Lisa Hall.

From there, they are invited to Explore – to dig deeper into a topic through a more hands-on, discussion-based and often client-based workshop or course. Last semester, students explored inclusive finance through our place-based impact investing workshop. This semester, students are exploring Opportunity Zones further through our Social Impact @ Scale course, taught by Beeck Center Executive Director Sonal Shah and through the School of Foreign Service’s Science Technology and International Affairs Program.

Next, we urge students to Act, engaging them in experiential learning programs such as our flagship GU Impacts fellowship or our Student Analyst program. These experiential learning programs have been a catalyst for the growing movement at Georgetown and more broadly for experiential learning as an integral part of today’s curriculum.

At the final stage of the LEAP journey, we invite our students to Partner. In this stage, Beeck student alumni partner from their own social impact platform; from within organizations or at the helm of a project or initiative. Last semester, we partnered with GU Impacts alumna Camille Bangug as the Co-Director of the Millennium Fellows Program. The inaugural program supported students across multiple universities, including sixteen Georgetown students, all leading social impact projects that addressed the Sustainable Development Goals. We celebrated their work last fall in our Youth Impact Conference, recognizing students like Camille, who joined a breakout panel that examined the role of youth in making the world a better place.

Through our partnership with Camille and the Millennium Fellows program, we engaged three Millennium fellows founding an initiative called Plan-It Earth. The Plan-It earth team was organized around a single idea: to host an annual ideathon at Georgetown that focused on climate change. These student leaders were motivated – they had witnessed the event at Duke and proposed to replicate and adapt the model at Georgetown, but they needed an institutional partner. They approached the Beeck Center to propose a partnership.

We are proud to share that we are leaning in to serve as a thought partner with Plan-It Earth, supporting the leaders of this seventeen-student team and working to make this event not only successful, but to serve as an incubator for our own approach to social impact. For example, we are working to ensure the ideathon is inclusive; that it presents and engages a diversity of ideas and people. We are integrating our own market-research, providing mentors from our incredible team of Fellows and leading breakout sessions on civic voice, data, and finance. On top of all this, we are integrating what we’ve learned from co-hosting our own challenges. This year’s inaugural ideathon examines the link between economic development and environmental protection. It has already attracted some 15 candidates, $20,000 in sponsorship from six different sources, and keynote speakers such as former science policy fellow at the EPA, Barbara Martinez, and noted policy consultant, Professor Jeremy Mathis. This event represents a true synthesis of our prior work and promises to be a great success.

From our founding five years ago, we’ve always hosted events, conferences, workshops, and classes. We’ve always done experiential learning and partnered with student leaders. We’ve always engaged in leading-edge research and worked across sectors for social impact at scale. But 2019 is different. As we celebrate our 5-year anniversary, we have a sharper understanding of how all these disparate pieces fit together. We have a clear and coherent vision that enables us to successfully train students to become the 21st Century leaders our world so sorely needs. Through the framework of the LEAP Journey, we are ensuring that our students have the tools and mindsets necessary to fulfill St. Ignatius’ mandate to “go forth and set the world on fire.”