Engaging the humanities: Center for the Humanities

Collaborating for academic development
Engaging the humanities: Center for the Humanities

Engaging the humanities: Center for the HumanitiesWhen the Center for the Humanities staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison saw how difficult it had become for humanities students to find academic positions, they looked to the local community to see what possibilities existed for fruitful collaborations.

With funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, in 2013 the center launched Engaging the Humanities, a project that allows five to six graduate students to help local organizations achieve a goal on their “dream list.” One of the program’s first collaborations was with the Madison Public Library and resulted in the Yahara Music Library, a resource for local musicians to self-publish their work and gain exposure. Sara Guyer, professor of English and the center director, says the program “opens up worlds” for students and helps the local community work toward social change. “These are precisely the people who we want to shape our societies and we haven’t given them the opportunity to do it,” says Guyer. “Hopefully, we are opening up those opportunities.”

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.

Click here to return to the 2015 M List.