SLS Hosts Second Social Innovation Buzz Course in Fall 2019

January 20, 2020

What is a “Buzz Course”?

SLS Buzz Courses are short, focused, co-curricular opportunities at Georgia Tech. Over the past several years SLS has collaborated with faculty and community partners to offer Buzz Courses on topics including citizen science, universal design, and social innovation. Community members, along with Georgia Tech students, may participate free of charge, and participants receive a digital badge of completion at the end of the course.

This fall’s Buzz Course was the second focused on Social Innovation, in partnership with the Center for Civic Innovation and Georgia Tech's Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship. This short course introduced participants to the basics of innovation as a tool for social impact and exposed them to some of Atlanta's experience and burgeoning civic entrepreneurs - problem solvers working locally to tackle large-scale challenges in new and creative ways. Completing the Social Innovation Buzz Course partially fulfills the requirements of the SLS Signature Program Innovating for Social Impact (I4SI).

The Fall 2019 Social Innovation Buzz Course participants included 12 undergraduate students, 2 graduate students, 4 community members, and 4 Fellows with the Center for Civic Innovation (​CCI). SLS Buzz Courses are planned and implemented in collaboration with SLS Community Partners and Georgia Tech partners. This fall’s course was led by the following team of facilitators:


  • Andrea Cervone, Programs Director, CCI
  • Ian Cohen, Fellowships Program Co-Director, CCI
  • David Eady, Industry Engagement Manager, GT Serve-Learn-Sustain
  • Sagdrina Jalal, Community Director and Fellowships Program Co-Director, CCI
  • Rohit Malhotra, Executive Director & Founder, CCI
  • Dori Pap, Assistant Director, Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship, Scheller College of Business


Buzz Course projects

On Monday, December 2nd, 16 Buzz Course participants presented their projects and discussed what they learned through this experience. One group worked with the organization Cool Moms Dance Too!, co-founded by Fellow Quyionah Wingfield, which seeks to improve the physical and mental health of families--and specifically mothers--through dance and fitness. They worked with the CCI Fellow to identify opportunities to enhance messaging through the organization’s web site and social media platforms, using storytelling to craft a more wholistic picture. A second team worked on a market analysis with Rachel Willis, founder of Elevating Equity, which “creates spaces for educators and community members to examine race and ensure every child received an equitable education.” WUNDERgrubs’ Civic Innovation Fellow Akissi Stokes created a business that produces highly nutritious, alternative protein foods. She worked with a Buzz Course team to create informational materials that can support marketing objectives. The final team collaborated with Mamie Harper, the founder of Carrie’s Closet of Georgia, which provides pop-up clothes closets for children in foster care. Together they identified challenges related to resources and logistics and began laying the groundwork for a business plan.

Key take-aways

In the closing session, Rohit Malhotra reminded participants of the importance of using the question “What is your WHY?” to center their work, stay focused on what matters most to them, and remain motivated, even when challenge after challenge arises. Dori Pap invited participants to share their experiences through the Georgia Tech Ideas2Serve competition next semester. Several student participants expressed eagerness to apply some of their learning from the course to student-led initiatives at Georgia Tech, such as Bits of Good and Epic Intentions. They also expressed appreciation for the diversity of perspectives and strengths that were represented by community members, Georgia Tech students, and social sector entrepreneurs participating in the course. (After all, it’s not every day that a sociologist and an economist works on the same project!)   Katie Maxwell (MSEEM Graduate Student), stated that “the Innovating for Social Impact Buzz Course was hands-down a top highlight of my semester. It allowed me to take the concepts I've been learning in my classes and apply them to a hands-on, high-impact project. It was exciting and rewarding to help on a real-world project with a social entrepreneur doing such amazing work in our community. I highly recommend this course!”

CCI Fellows shared appreciation for new skills, new approaches, and exposure to a variety of leadership styles through their work with Buzz Course students. ​Akissi Stokes (CCI Fellow and ownder of WUNDERgrubs) remarked,  "Working with an incredibly diverse group of dynamic students from countries and levels of education and work experience to family dynamics, ethnicities, and ages was invaluable in designing a business model that would allow my company to be more impactful and sustainable for a community.”

Co-Facilitator Rohit Malhotra reflected, "This course was an incredible opportunity to connect students with four incredible female civic entrepreneurs who represent what it means to 'do the work.' Together, these entrepreneurs learned from the vision and talent of the students, and the students gained inspiration and insight from the entrepreneurs. We believe this will forge a long-lasting impression and relationship between the amazing people the Center for Civic Innovation works with every day and the ever-so-talented students at Georgia Tech."

The facilitation team has already met to de-brief, review survey responses, and plan for the next successful Buzz Course in Fall 2020!

The Center for Civic Innovation (CCI) has been serving social entrepreneurs in Atlanta since 2014. Over the past five years CCI has raised almost $1 million from philanthropic and impact investors supporting more than 100 social entrepreneurs in the metro Atlanta area. The Center for Civic Innovation seeks to transform Atlanta’s legacy of large income inequality gaps and low upward mobility rates by elevating “more effective solutions that improve equality and build trust in the public sector.” CCI has been a partner of SLS for several years through Buzz Courses and summer internships. Andrea CervoneCCI Programs Director, and Sagdrina JalalCCI Community Director and Fellowships Program Co-Director, serve on the PAC.