Green business professor Jay Friedlander uses SolutionsU to …
shift his students’ perspectives, from a problem mindset to solutions mindset.
Jay Friedlander teaches courses on social entrepreneurship, social innovation and sustainable business at College of the Atlantic, a unique institution in Bar Harbor, Maine, where all students major in Human Ecology. In 2008, he founded the school’s sustainable business program and developed a curriculum focusing on how building social, economic and environmental capital sparks innovation and creates competitive advantage.
In several of his courses, he sends his students to SolutionsU to identify social issues they want to solve, to research best practices and strategies, and to undertake benchmarking analyses.
But it isn’t the skills his students develop or the knowledge they acquire from studying solutions journalism stories that he says is most important; rather, it’s a shift that occurs in their perspective, from a problem-based mindset to a solution-based mindset.
“So much of academia is about figuring out what is wrong in society, and teaching students to be critics. However, that’s only half of the story and it leaves our students frustrated, overwhelmed and feeling powerless. Yes, students need to understand the deep-rooted causes of these challenges, but they also need to know how people are working around those challenges and creating solutions. They need to learn that they can affect change.”
Jay says he sees this shift in perspective in his students once they realize they really do have a role to play in solving the world’s problems.
“A student stopped me as I was walking across campus to tell me that going onto SolutionsU had changed her entire view of what is possible. It was a breakthrough experience for her to learn that people all around the world are solving social problems.
“For me, that is what’s most powerful about SolutionsU.”
That shift in perspective is a theme that runs throughout Jay’s work, both inside and outside of the classroom.
In 2014, he launched a framework for business leaders and social entrepreneurs to bridge the gap between sustainability and business by focusing on abundance rather than scarcity.
“Too often the sustainability focuses on trade-offs and sacrifice; the Abundance Cycle turns that conversation on its head and sparks innovation, new industries and unveils opportunities to build a virtuous cycle delivering abundance for shareholders, the planet and society. Furthermore, it does away with the squishiness of sustainability that so often confounds leaders by seamlessly connecting sustainability to strategy.”
You can learn more about the Abundance Cycle at www.abundancecycle.com.
The Abundance Cycle is also useful in the classroom, and as a teaching tool, SolutionsU and the Abundance Cycle are complimentary. This spring, Jay and his student, Noah Rosenberg, are collaborating with SolutionsU to create a teaching module.
“Two fundamental ingredients of creating change are inspiration and skills. SolutionsU is a powerful source of inspiration; the stories show what is possible. The Abundance Cycle is a tool to bring those possibilities to life. The Abundance Cycle provides professors and students with the skills to harness and act on that inspiration to build new enterprises or remake exisiting ones. All with an eye toward building an economy that embodies prosperity for people and our planet.”
The modules on SolutionsU will provide professors and teachers of all kinds the information they need to get started. Check back soon. They’re scheduled to launch in March!
Are you an educator who wants your students to learn about how people around the world are working to solve society’s toughest challenges? Visit SolutionsU for collections of stories with discussion questions, assignments, syllabi and teaching modules.
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