University of Southern California

GreenHouse principals hold one of only three Innovator in Residence posts at major US universities and the only such post in the social sciences. In this capacity since 2014 at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work – the largest such institution in the world – GreenHouse has guided development of the nation’s first doctorate in social innovation, the nation’s first graduate nursing program focused on the social determinants of health and original programs related to field training, the scope and role of the social work profession, and an original theory of social innovation.

More broadly and more assertively

In 2014, GreenHouse was enlisted to be the first-ever Innovator in Residence at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work – the first-ever in a school of social work, the first ever in the social sciences and one of only a handful in any field in the U.S.

Here’s why we agreed: society desperately needs social workers. More precisely, society needs the kind of things social workers know about social context and human systems applied more broadly and more assertively.

The challenge was that social workers were ill-prepared to play that larger role. Overcoming the challenge required a culture change — in the field and in its professional education.

So far, so good. Recruited for this role by Dean Marilyn Flynn, our partnership with the school has been highly productive. Together, we have developed and launched the first-ever doctorate in social innovation, the first graduate program in nursing within a school of social work, and an award-winning masters fellowship in social innovation.

Dreams for the human condition

Dr. Marilyn Flynn is a leader – if not the leader – in social work education. Flynn is dean of the University of Southern California’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, the largest such institution in the world, and a central figure in many of the field’s most influential organizations, including the Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, the St. Louis Group, and the Network for Social Work Management.

Dr. Flynn said of us, “GreenHouse’s expertise is that of the most unusual sort and lies in their ability to engage people at the highest possible level in analysis of their concerns and their dreams for the improvement in the human condition.”

We have worked closely with Dr. Flynn since our appointment as Innovator in Residence and in development of multiple initiatives, including the nation’s first-ever doctorate in social innovation and the first graduate nursing program oriented to the social determinants of health.

Public practice

Increasingly, organizations tackling society’s most pressing problems are run by executives trained in business schools, where they receive no education related to social challenges, social dynamics or the social sector, generally. In response, GreenHouse helped design, develop and launch the nation’s first doctorate in management, leadership and social innovation – at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

The professional doctorate requires students to complete coursework in social and public sector leadership, social sector finance, public discourse, program design and evaluation and social innovation – predicated on GreenHouse’s original work in this area. Students are required to substantively address one of 12 grand challenges facing society, ranging from the human cost of climate change to the impact of stigma.

In its capacity as Innovator in Residence, GreenHouse also developed curricula and content, including casebooks and videos, which are used by faculty and students throughout the program.

Determinedly social

It’s no secret that health care providers need a far better understanding of social factors – like cultural differences, poverty and stigma – just to do their jobs. But to date, these essential factors have been an afterthought in their professional education.

That’s why we worked with the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work to develop and launch the first graduate program in nursing oriented toward these factors and the kind of inter-professional collaboration necessary to effectively address them.

The program was shaped by findings in Health Plus Social, a publication we developed to explore the interplay of social determinants and professional education. Dean Marilyn Flynn wrote this in the foreword: “Conditions of poverty, injustice, and broken human relationships provide the etiology for gunshot wounds, delayed development, late-stage diagnosis, and lack of access to care. … Our experts here note that nursing may have more potential than other health professions in bringing power and authority to the idea of social determinants and incorporating this content into training and professional perspectives.”

As Innovator in Residence, we were part of the new graduate nursing program from its inception through the admission of the first cohort of students in August 2016. Our work continues in exploring how these social factors can inform a new research agenda for nursing science and new forms of doctoral education.

Day one

Innovation is hard work, particularly inside organizations that aren’t equipped to have disruptive ideas or to bring them to life. But that work gets even harder when the instigator has no organizational authority.

That’s why we developed the COBI Fellows Program, a pilot at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work to prepare graduate students to lead innovation on day one of their careers.

In its first year, the program won the SAGE/CSWE Award for Innovative Teaching in Social Work Education. From the award announcement: The program “provides a framework for infusing innovative practices in organizations, and engages participants in an interactive experience designed to drive change in social service organizations.”

We developed the program in our capacity as Innovator in Residence, basing the curriculum on our original framework and methodology for social innovation.

Social health

hplussThere is now widespread agreement that social determinants – factors like race, class and zip code – have greater influence on our health than does our biology. But the health care system has been slow to evolve, leaving providers ill-equipped to help patients and others in need.

GreenHouse has jumped into the void, developing the publication Health Plus Social to explore social determinants and the implications for the training of health care professionals. The publication is part of our efforts as Innovator in Residence to give shape to the new graduate nursing program at the University of Southern California, the first such program housed in a school of social work.

“The basic reason for the neglect of social determinants in health care is that the system is primarily set up to treat acute, biomedical problems,” wrote the report’s editor, Andrew Benedict-Nelson. “Substantial work remains if we hope to translate our understanding of social determinants into practical, specific protocols for care on the individual or community level.”

Challenges like this are now being tackled in inter-professional collaborations, such as one GreenHouse helped launch in summer 2016.

Open questions

There is a troubling disconnect between social innovation theory and practice. In response, GreenHouse is developing the first-ever casebook for social innovation practitioners – leveraging the pedagogy currently used by universities to train professionals in law, medicine and business. We’re drawing on the best aspects of this tradition but making a crucial change: the problems we’re tackling will not be closed cases, but open questions facing society.

The casebook will be predicated on the social norms approach to social innovation, and will include in-depth exploration of innovation related to 15 social challenges, including mental health, childhood obesity, sexual assault, animal maltreatment, decarceration, foster care, refugees, disaster preparedness, homelessness, social isolation, and access to the legal system.

The casebook will be introduced at the University of Southern California, in the nation’s first doctorate in social innovation.

Jane 2.0

In 1919, when Jane Addams won the Nobel Peace Prize, social good was a relatively narrow domain – populated largely by progressive clergy and women like Jane, who were the forerunners of the modern field of social work. Today, nearly a century later, social good has exploded into virtually sector, industry and profession.

We’re out to determine where it’s going and how best to train professionals to lead it. In partnership with the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, we are engaging experts from around the world – in domains as diverse as technology, design and international movement-building – and connecting them to educators, who will grow the next generation of social good leaders.

This project is part of our efforts as Innovator in Residence, which includes development of a Master’s fellowship in social innovation and the nation’s first doctorate in social innovation – both at USC.