Students Use Social Innovation to Solve Global Problems, Drive Change

Twenty-one students receive social innovation awards for their work on pressing issues.

May 26, 2021

From left: Shawon Jackson, Abdulhamid Haidar, Ted McKlveen. Credit: Javier Flores

The 2021 Social Innovation Fellowship recipients, Shawon Jackson, Abdulhamid Haidar, and Ted McKlveen, launched ventures that address social and environmental needs. | Javier Flores

Stanford Graduate School of Business has awarded three members of the Class of 2021 the Social Innovation Fellowship to continue their work to empower Black and Brown youth through public speaking, expand education in areas with limited internet connectivity, and reduce emissions in transportation.

The SIF is awarded each year to graduating students who plan to start a high-impact for-profit or nonprofit social venture that addresses a pressing social or environmental need. It provides financial and personalized entrepreneurship support for one year, including a $110,000 stipend, communications and leadership coaching, and an opportunity to join the Stanford Venture Studio resident program, an interdisciplinary community of graduate students and alumni who are developing new businesses.

Commitment to social innovation has never been higher at Stanford GSB. This year, more than 150 students will receive a Certificate in Public Management and Social Innovation for their coursework in fields such as economic opportunity, environmental sustainability, health, or education — the highest number ever. In addition, 76 students participated in the Stanford GSB Impact Fund, a student-managed fund that invests in ventures with social value; this is the fund’s largest class since it was founded in 2015. Students also took part in nearly 100 social impact summer experiences through Stanford Seed internships, Social Management Immersion Fellowships, and Impact Design Immersion Fellowships — up from 38 experiences in 2019.

“Our social innovation awards recognize the important role leaders play in finding innovative ways to approach some of the most complex social problems,” said Jonathan Levin, the Philip H. Knight Professor and dean of Stanford GSB. “We are proud of these students for their commitment to making the world a better place in so many ways.”

The 2021 SIF recipients are:

  • Abdulhamid Haidar, MBA ’21: In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Haidar created Darsel, a nonprofit educational platform for students with limited internet access or device availability. His goal is to alleviate a global learning crisis by increasing access to low-cost, low-bandwidth technology in resource-constrained communities.
  • Shawon Jackson, MBA ’21: Last year, Jackson launched Vocal Justice, an organization that prepares Black and Brown youth to be socially conscious leaders through a public speaking program that focuses on developing confidence, communication skills, and critical consciousness.
  • Ted McKlveen, MBA ’21: McKlveen cofounded Verne, a hydrogen storage company that aims to reduce emissions in heavy-duty transportation. Current hydrogen storage solutions are expensive, heavy, and take up too much space on a vehicle; Verne’s cryo-compression technique allows its tank to be half the weight, volume, and cost of existing models.

Social innovation is a vibrant and growing part of the Stanford GSB experience. Through the Center for Social Innovation, students can navigate impact careers in the corporate, nonprofit, government, or philanthropic world. The social innovation curriculum includes experiential learning, context-building courses, and classes that emphasize the fundamentals of mission-driven work. New courses were offered as part of the Certificate in Public Management and Social Innovation to equip students with a deeper understanding of our society and to provide them with hands-on opportunities to contribute while learning: Leadership for Society: Race and Power gave over 300 students the opportunity to better understand the role of race in society; the Action Learning class Financial Analysis for Impact involved students in projects with nonprofit organizations and investment funds to optimize decisions for positive social and environmental impact alongside business performance; in Policy Practicum: Alabama Innovation, students worked on policy recommendations for the Alabama Innovation Commission that can promote innovation, entrepreneurship, economic development, and high-skilled jobs as the state recovers from the pandemic.

CSI Director Bernadette Clavier said students are more eager than ever to make positive change in the world.

Our social innovation awards recognize the important role leaders play in finding innovative ways to approach some of the most complex social problems.
Jonathan Levin

“In the past year, the global COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing calls for racial justice in the United States made even more clear the need for every person to contribute to the extent they can to improve the world we live in,” she said. “Our students are actively involved, in ways big and small.”

That commitment continues after graduation. In 2020, 19% of the graduating class went into socially or environmentally responsible businesses.

In addition to the SIF recipients, 18 students were recognized for their commitment to social innovation through the Frances and Arjay Miller Prize in Social Innovation, an award given each year to one or more students pursuing social or environmental impact careers, and the Stanford Impact Leader Fellowship, which honors graduating MBA and MSx students who have made outstanding contributions to the social innovation community during their time at Stanford GSB. Since the MSx Class of 2021 started the program in January this year, Miller Social Change Leadership Awards will be awarded to students in this class closer to their graduation in December 2021.

The 2021 Frances and Arjay Miller Prize in Social Innovation honorees are:

  • Neha Dalal, MBA ’21, whose goal is to lead large-scale social impact through public policy, philanthropy, and impact investing;
  • Kana Hammon, MBA ’21, who uses storytelling to advocate for social change; and
  • Kanishka Narayan, MBA ’21, an adviser to the British Labour Party on tech policy and how technological change can be made more inclusive.

This year, 18 students received the Miller Social Change Leadership Award. They are:

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