A $10 million gift from philanthropists Alberto and Olga Maria Beeck will fund the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Georgetown University, the school announced yesterday. The center will foster innovation among students who want to build skills and organizations to solve society’s problems.
Through the new center, students will learn how to design, organize and raise funds for careers in social impact, and meet global leaders who will help with the incubation of their new ideas for small businesses or nonprofits.
The Beeck Center is unique in its university-wide approach, which will bring students, professors and community members together to creatively solve social justice issues. Similar centers at other top universities are housed within their business schools.
“This is unlike other initiatives because it is for undergraduate students and graduate students, it’s cross-disciplinary and it touches on the entire university, rather than just the business school or the School of Foreign Service,” says Alberto Beeck, who is director of Virgin Hotels and the former president of a Peru-based cement company, Cementos Pacasmayo.
Beeck adds that the family’s passion is education and connecting the social sector while also promoting solutions-based government policies.
Georgetown University Provost Robert Groves will serve as the center’s executive vice president, and he tells the Washington Post the school wants to teach research skills by having students actively doing things and also meet the growing demand to support entrepreneurship driven by a passion to solve problems. Social innovation also aligns with the school’s Jesuit values for service, he says.
Sonal Shah, a professor and economist who previously served as director of President Barack Obama’s Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in the White House, will lead the new center. She also serves as a senior fellow at the Case Foundation and the Center for American Progress.
“I really think that this is going to become an important beacon in Washington, shining a light on the importance of social innovation and putting a focus on the entrepreneurial spirit and approaches in the social sector,” says Jean Case, co-founder and CEO of the Case Foundation and executive-in-residence at the McDonough School’s Global Social Enterprise Initiative.
“[The Beeck Center] will have great value not just to students, but to faculty and global leaders from all sectors.”