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Social Innovation at the Wond’ry


Want to make a difference? You’ll find friends here!

Social Innovation at the Wond’ry empowers Vanderbilt students, faculty, staff and community partners to understand complex social and ecological problems and design meaningful interventions that support lasting transformation in our communities. We do this using the tools of systems thinking and equity-centered design.

Current Open Applications

  • Map the System: Applications due January 31, 2021. Apply here.
    • Note: when registering for Map the System, you’ll be directed to an Oxford University survey. This is correct. When prompted, enter Vanderbilt University as your host institution.
  • Grounds for Empowerment: Rolling applications. Apply here. Priority consideration given to students who express interest by December 3, 2021.
    • Note: Grounds for Empowerment is offered to Vanderbilt students through a partnership with Emory University. VU students may participate as a co-curricular program, directed or independent study, or undergraduate Immersion opportunity. Conversational proficiency in Spanish is required.

what social innovation means to us

At the Wond’ry, we believe that Social Innovation is not the responsibility of any single entity or individual. It means bringing together people and organizations of diverse backgrounds to co-create new opportunities to support lasting, meaningful transformation in our communities. Social innovations may be new products, processes, programs, services, businesses, partnerships, collaborations, publications, media, and more that help positively transform the daily routines, relationships, resource access, power dynamics, and/or values that hold our greatest challenges in place.


Social Venture Think Tank

The Social Venture Think Tank pairs teams of Vanderbilt University students with a Nashville-based community partner. Together, using the tools of human-centered design, student teams and their partners co-create new organizational capabilities, tools, and resources that help advance meaningful change in the Nashville community.
When it happens: Every Fall.

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Map the System Competition

Map the System teaches Vanderbilt University students to use systems research to understand a specific social or environmental challenge and identify meaningful opportunities to help address it. This program is an ideal launching point for students interested in social change or social entrepreneurship. Vanderbilt University partners with the Global Map the System Competition at University of Oxford to bring this program to campus. The winner of Vanderbilt’s on-campus competition advances to the global finals.
When it happens: Every Spring, but rolling registration. Register for Spring ’22 here.

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Coffee Equity Lab 

The Coffee Equity Lab offers a variety of pathways for Vanderbilt students, faculty and staff to learn about and engage with the pressing issues shaping our world through the lens of the global coffee industry. Opportunities include, but are not limited to the Coffee Equity Design Challenge, the Grounds for Empowerment Program, Study Abroad, Continuing Education OLLI Courses, public lectures and events, sensory workshops and more. The lab carries forward Vanderbilt’s 15-year legacy of coffee research through the Institute of Coffee Studies and combines research, practice, and teaching to pursue meaningful and coordinated resolutions to equity challenges for all actors across the coffee supply chain.
When it happens: Year round opportunities. Apply to the Spring ’22 Coffee Equity Design Challenge here by November 19, 2021.

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Social Enterprise Pitch Competition with the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures

The Wond’ry supports the Turner Family Center for Social Venture’s coordination of the Vanderbilt University Social Enterprise Pitch Competition. Launching in Fall 2021 to replace Vanderbilt’s participation in the HULT Competition, the Social Enterprise Pitch Competition provides Vanderbilt students the opportunity to ideate on solving a real challenge in our ever-changing global environments. The theme for the Fall 2021 Social Enterprise Pitch Competition is: Create positive impact by generating 500 jobs in Nashville (or Middle Tennessee region) by 2024. The competition is open to all Vanderbilt students. The final pitch will be presented in front of a panel of judges who are Tennessee-based leaders and entrepreneurs on Saturday, November 6, 2021. Interested students may register and learn more here.

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We build partnerships with diverse entities and individuals who are committed to affecting positive social, economic, and ecological change. Our partners include non-profits, businesses, public offices, student organizations, on-campus organizations and departments, other institutions of higher education, and community members. We extend thanks to all of our on- and off-campus partners!

Off-campus Partners: Past & Present

On-campus Partners