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Social Innovation Weekend to tackle opioid abuse problem, seek solutions

Community leaders, students to join forces

An entrepreneur is often described as someone who creates their own business, presumably to make money and a career for themselves and others. But work in social entrepreneurship calls upon the same skills and ideas to find ways to help others.

Next month, the Farmer School will host Social Innovation Weekend, an intense experience on March 8-10 in which students from across campus will use entrepreneurial skills to tackle significant social challenges. The inaugural event will look for ideas and solutions in substance abuse and addiction recovery, an issue both nationally and locally.

"We want to show our entrepreneurship students that the skill set they're developing around tackling uncertainty, innovating, and developing novel solutions to things can be used to create value in a lot of different domains," assistant professor of management Chris Sutter said. "You can also do this in the social sector. Nonprofits need this skill set, community health agencies need this skill set. So one of the purposes is to just say, ‘Hey, these skills are valuable in solving social problems in the same way they're valuable in creating profits.’”

“Students will have the opportunity to work with community professionals and build real business solutions that can change substance abuse and addiction recovery forever,” junior marketing major Jake Bertog explained. “The problem of addiction has become more common in recent years and there needs to be more action taken in order to stop this epidemic.”

The idea is similar to Startup Weekend, a long-running event put on by the Institute for Entrepreneurship that has a similar format, where teams form to work on ideas pitched to the group, then present their ideas to judges. Sutter said SIW will keep many of Startup Weekend’s components because they’ve proven effective in the past.

Among the agencies the students will work with are Butler County Health, Butler Behavioral Health, Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Board, Colerain Twp. Fire Department, and the Addiction Services Council. Sutter admitted that when they reached out to community partners, there was some confusion about what was being proposed, but that changed quickly.

“There's already an understanding that tacking these kinds of complex problems requires breaking down some of the silos and being innovative, so as we had those conversations, there's generally been a lot of enthusiasm for the idea,” he noted.

Addiction Services Council's Shana Merrick is one of the community partners looking forward to participating in the event. "We love the idea of casting a wide net on the global health issue of addiction and seeing what exciting new ideas and opportunities will evolve from the teams," she said.

"Our being able to change and grow as an organization is having the ability to see other perspectives and we are certain this event will offer this to us," Merrick explained. "We are excited for this opportunity and really look forward to learning and teaching."

The event is open to students across the Miami campus. Anyone interested in participating, mentoring, or being a judge can go here for information.

Sutter said he’s looking forward to seeing what results come from the students over the weekend. "I really think we can create some ideas that are useful. We're not going to solve everything in one weekend, but to get a bunch of fresh eyes on a problem that's really relevant and important locally is a great opportunity.”