New School News

For Social Innovators, A New Challenge

Are You a Social Innovator?

If you’re reading this, chances are the answer is yes. In fact, every student and graduate of The New School is a participant in one of the most influential social innovations of the past century. The New School was founded by dissident professors from conventional universities who believed that students could direct their own education, an idea that changed the face of American education.

Nearly a century later, that innovative drive lives on at The New School, and now a new project is giving students an opportunity to launch their own experiments in public engagement. The New Challenge, sponsored by the university’s cross-divisional Social Innovation Initiative offers funding of up to $10,000 to student projects that address local or global community challenges in innovative ways.

The New Challenge encourages students to think about how they can play a role in solving the social and environmental challenges of our time,, says New Challenge faculty director Michele Kahane, professor of professional practice at Milano. This is an opportunity for students to make their visions of change a reality and apply their skills outside of classroom walls.,

Students won’t need to look far for inspiration. The New School is already home to a number of social innovation efforts that bridge the gap between academic discourse and civic engagement. Such projects include DESIS Lab, which explores community-based solutions for sustainability in New York City, and the Community Development Finance Lab, whose partnerships provide technical assistance to community organizations. But true to its name, the New Challenge seeks to open up new avenues to civic engagement.

Social ventures, political and community organizing and advocacy projects are more than welcome, but the door is open for every kind of idea,, says Kahane. This is about student-led work, so we’re encouraging ideas that reflect the broad range of disciplines and interests here at The New School. Proposed projects can be new product designs, short films, tech apps, even performance work that address a social issue in a new way., Grants of $5,000 and $2,500 will be awarded in addition to the $10,000 grand prize.

On April 16, from 2:00-4:30 p.m. the community is invited to attend presentations by all seven finalists who are leading the way in social innovation at The New School, as well as the announcement of the Community Vote Prize. Vote for the Prize and register at


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