December 3, 2018

Social Innovation and Public Service Fund Allocates Awards to Students and Alumni Developing Ventures for the Public Good

Each year, the Social Innovation and Public Service (SIPS) Fund distributes approximately $60,000 to Georgetown students and alumni who have viable ideas for innovative social ventures or unpaid public service internships.

Michael Bakan in Soweto, South Africa in 2016.
Michael Bakan in Soweto, South Africa in 2016.

Housed in the Center for Social Justice and composed of a board of trustees and student executive committee, the SIPS Fund provides resources for students and alumni to engage in service projects in the United States and abroad.

“SIPS benefits the Georgetown community because we invest in both projects and in people, allowing for the development of social ventures with tangible community impact while also increasing the access to funding for Georgetown students and alumni who want to pursue their passions in order to grow as civic leaders,” said Michael Bakan (B’19), executive director of the fund’s executive committee.

“SIPS is a community of students helping other students actualize concepts and go out and take Jesuit ideals and put them into practice,” added Princess Adentan (C’18), former executive director of the fund’s executive committee.

The SIPS Fund Executive Committee meets with former awardee and Georgetown alumnus, Ahwaz Akhtar (pictured middle)
The SIPS Fund Executive Committee meets with former awardee and Georgetown alumnus, Ahwaz Akhtar (pictured middle)

Impact, Sustainability, and Innovation

The fund evaluates ventures based on four key criteria: impact on the student, impact on the community, sustainability, and innovation. Once the executive committee grants a vote of confidence to a project, the board of trustees must then authorize funding.

While the executive committee consists entirely of students, the board of trustees includes an assortment of Georgetown students, faculty, alumni, and staff. Lisa Krim, senior advisor to the president for faculty relations and current member of the board of trustees, underscored the unique organizational structure.

“The students are in charge of the heavy lifting and bring things to the board for approval,” said Krim. “All of that conversation means that when the board approves funding for SIPS projects or structural changes in the organization, the board is confident that it’s advancing the mission of the SIPS Fund.”

During the application process, the executive committee assigns a project manager to offer guidance on proposal development. Available throughout the entire calendar year, project managers strive to connect grantees with SIPS alumni, professors, and practitioners.

Transforming Ideas into Reality

After learning about the political and hydrological dimensions of the systemic drought plaguing Maharashtra, India, in her India Innovation Studio course, Rosa Cuppari (SFS’17) applied for SIPS funding to implement a five-day workshop for the region’s farmers.

“My mentor and other members of the Executive Committee helped me improve and refine my project throughout the application phase,” said Cuppari. 

“My initial idea for the workshop ended up being quite different from the workshop I actually held.”

Instead of focusing on the revival of traditional water saving technologies, Cuppari’s workshop taught design thinking as a mechanism to improve water resource management.

“The most unique part of the workshop was its special appeal to women, who made up the vast majority of our participants, and who also tend to do the daily work on the farms,” explained Cuppari. As a recipient of SIPS funding in 2016, Bakan spent two months working at a Jesuit high school in Soweto, South Africa, where he helped build the school’s first extracurricular graphic design and acting programs. He also partnered with the Ignatian Solidarity Network, a Jesuit education nonprofit, to start a blog about Soweto community leaders that reached over 20,000 subscribers worldwide.

“The impact of this project was wholeheartedly mutual,” said Bakan. “In immersing into the narratives of Soweto, we were all able to develop new circles of kinship that allowed us to creatively imagine new models of community impact and grow as storytellers and leaders.”

Envisioning the Future

Since its inception in 2011, the SIPS Fund has distributed more than $200,000 to date. Bakan hopes that SIPS can grow awareness around the fund, both on campus and among eligible alumni.

“Unlike many Georgetown experiences, SIPS does not end upon graduation,” Bakan said. “Both current Georgetown students and Georgetown alumni who graduated after 2001 can apply for funding.”

Krim emphasized the dual importance of promoting direct service opportunities and the leadership opportunities available within the fund.

“I’d like to see it deeply embedded in the fabric of Georgetown,” said Krim. “And I’d like to see a future where all students know of the remarkable opportunities that SIPS provides.”