City Life

Making a movement: Office of Multicultural Initiatives

Office of Multicultural Initiatives is one of thirty-five social innovations that has made the 2015 M List

Celebrating its ten-year anniversary this fall, the Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives has created a ripple effect throughout the hip-hop arts and spoken word community.

First Wave is a mulitcultural art scholarship program that has three primary tenants: academics, arts and activism. Willie Ney created the program because he saw a need for the University of Wisconsin–Madison's community to represent the nation and give students an opportunity to change the world while getting a world-class education. First-year students in the program participate in a bridge program over the summer, take courses and live together in a residence hall. They have been instrumental in leading social justice-related initiatives and activism and have spread the Black Lives Matter movement across campus and started a nonprofit organization. The program relies heavily on local partnerships including the Justified Anger group, the Wisconsin Book Festival, Overture Center, 100state and other community and campus organizations.

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What is social innovation? 

According to Stanford University's Social Innovation Review, social innovation is a "novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable or just than existing solutions" and benefits primarily society as a whole rather than private individuals.

It includes these elements:

  • Increasing employment, productivity and economic growth
  • Justice, fairness, environmental preservation, improved health, arts and culture and better education

A social innovation:

  • Can be a product, production process or technology (much like innovation in general), but it can also be a principle, an idea, a piece of legislation, a social movement, an intervention or some combination of them.
  • Recognizes the fundamental role of cross-sector dynamics: exchanging ideas and values, shifting roles and relationships and blending public, philanthropic and private resources. Innovation blossoms where the sectors converge.
  • Can't be understood, let alone solved, without involving the nonprofit, public and private sectors.


The M List
Madison Magazine's M List is a who's who of organizations and individuals who are having an impact on our local culture and economy. In its third year, the M List recognizes those making strides in the area of social innovation. Last year's list of innovators were in the food industry. The original M List, in 2013, honored the technology sector. The 2014 M List honored "Foodtastic" entrepreneurs and innovators.


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