Ben Powell shares with Berea’s next generation of change makers how he cultivates change using his innovative approach toward social responsibility. Powell’s Berea College convocation lecture, “Sustainable Enterprise: Agora Partnerships,” on February 23 at 3 p.m. in Phelps Stokes Auditorium is free and open to the public. The convocation is sponsored by Berea’s Entrepreneurship for the Public Good (EPG) program.
Founder of the nonprofit Agora partnerships, Powell also serves as the social entrepreneur in residence for Ashoka University. There, Powell uses his efforts to transform colleges and universities into hubs of social innovation by providing them with the concepts, strategies and online tools for more effective approaches to social responsibility, open source technology and project management.
Powell launched his first venture in Puebla, Mexico. He and a business partner opened a mini-golf and pub to create jobs and offer healthy family entertainment. He later went to work as a presidential management fellow at the White House in the Office of Management and Budget. Later, he earned his MBA at Columbia University and launched Agora Partnerships.
In 2005 Ben Powell launched Agora with the intent to create a successful community of small and growing business entrepreneurs. Powell’s organization made the commitment to unleash the potential of small business “impact” entrepreneurs to create economic, social, and environmental value for their communities and for the world. Agora works to accomplish this mission by providing select entrepreneurs in the developing world with strategic consulting, leadership development, a global community of support, and access to capital. Using human, cultural, and financial capital to help create a new generation of impact entrepreneurs, Agora Partnerships strives to change cultural attitudes and expectations about the role of business in poor countries, and their importance for broad economic development.
Powell also holds a master’s degree in foreign service with distinction from Georgetown University, and a bachelor’s degree with high honors from Haverford College. He has been recognized as a development innovator as a Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation Entrepreneur, a BMW Foundation Young Leader, in addition to his appointment as an Ashoka Fellow. Powell was also a Social Venture Network Innovation Award honoree in 2009 and named one of the top “40 under 40” development leaders in Washington, DC in 2010.
The EPG Program at Berea College uses the concept of social innovation to teach undergraduate students to practice and implement Entrepreneurial Leadership in rural communities of Central Appalachia. EPG defines “entrepreneurial leadership” as “a process when one person or a group of people in a community originate an idea or innovation for a needed change and influence others in that community to commit to realizing that change, despite the presence of risk, ambiguity, or uncertainty.”
The EPG curriculum and course of study are built from this central definition using the principles of goal setting, an exploration of ethics, leadership skills, resource identification and the identification of community-based needs and values. EPG teaches Berea College students, the principles of cultivating change in a way that reflects the values of the communities they serve.
Powell replaces Jane Leu, who was originally scheduled to present a convocation on this date.