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Leading U.S. Social Work Scholars Explore Aotearoa | NZ’s Social Innovation And Social Entrepreneurship Ecosystem

This March, University of Otago’s STARlab brings U.S. academics to Aotearoa | New Zealand as part of the U.S. State Department funded initiative, "Social Work, Social Entrepreneurship, and Social Innovation: Establishing an Interdisciplinary Practice". The visit, featuring Auckland and Wellington, aims to cultivate a fertile exchange of ideas and best practices between scholars and practitioners in the two nations, enriching the global discourse on social entrepreneurship (SE), social innovation (SI), and social work (SW).

The group, led by STARlab Director Dr. Marissa Kaloga and administered through the U.S. Embassy in New Zealand, will meet with institutions and communities at the forefront of social entrepreneurship and social innovation. This includes Creative HQ, Ember Innovation, and The Southern Initiative. Key delivery partners, the University of Auckland Business School and The Akina Foundation, provided significant support to ensure meaningful engagement.

The delegation consists of four prominent U.S. social work scholars with expertise in SE/SI: Dr. Monica Nandan (Kennesaw State University), Dr. James Mandiberg (CUNY Hunter College), Dr. Ram Cnaan, and Dr. Femida Handy (both from the University of Pennsylvania).

The initiative focuses on:

Exploring Impact, Inclusion, and Sustainability: By examining SE/SI practices of in both regions, the delegation aims to uncover innovative approaches to impact generation, inclusivity, and sustainability. This exploration is intended to spark a global dialogue, shedding light on the diverse methodologies that drive social change.

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Fostering Academic Partnerships: A key objective is to lay the groundwork for new partnerships between U.S. and A|NZ organizations. These collaborations will support the ongoing contribution and evolving role of social work within the realms of social entrepreneurship and social innovation, informing future research and practice.

Building the Social Work Innovation Network (SWIN): The delegation will also highlight the role of the Social Work Innovation Network (SWIN) as the premier global professional network in SE/SI and Social Work. With co-leadership from the United States and Aotearoa | New Zealand, SWIN is a dynamic Community of Practice exploring the intersection of foundational social work values and innovative social entrepreneurship strategies.

“Social work and entrepreneurship have more in common than you might realize: pragmatic, applied, and interdisciplinary, these two fields have a lot to learn from one another. It’s an honour for STARlab to host this delegation, and I’m looking forward to seeing what ideas emerge from this work,” says Dr. Marissa Kaloga, Lecturer at University of Otago, and Director of STARlab.

"The collaboration with Dr. Kaloga and her team at STARlab represents an extraordinary opportunity to bridge disciplines and cultures, propelling us toward meaningful systemic change," states Dr. Jamie Newth, Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland.

"It is always a pleasure to create a space of ako - learning and sharing - between social enterprises and international guests to not only showcase the talent and impact that our social enterprise community is having here in Aotearoa New Zealand but also hear fresh insights from leading professionals in this field" said Nicola Nation, CEO Ākina Foundation.

“The U.S. Embassy is delighted to support this program which promotes new international academic partnerships between the United States and New Zealand. Knowledge exchange between academic institutions benefits us all.” – US Embassy spokesperson

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