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Executive Perspectives

EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: Sustainable Innovation for the World, Sowing the Seeds of Social Entrepreneurship

This brief interview is part of Sustainable Innovation for the World, a series by Thomson Reuters Sustainability on innovation, either scientific or social, which could help make the world more sustainable.

Featured Innovation: World Savvy, by Dana Mortenson, co-founder of education nonprofit, World Savvy

How does your innovation help the world?

My co-founder, Madiha Murshed, and I started World Savvy 13 years ago to prepare young people to engage, succeed, and meet the challenges of 21st century global citizenship. We do that by working in partnership with schools, districts, and educators across the country.

The challenges we’re facing, as a country and globally, in the 21st century are different than those we’ve faced in the past. We need to ensure our youth are ready to live and thrive in more diverse communities, that they can work with people who are different from them and that they see those differences as an asset. We need to be sure they’re ready to work across borders in a world that’s more globally connected. We need to ask ourselves – are we raising critical thinkers who are creative and flexible in their approach, and who view the world as engaged global citizens?

Today, we’re using our global competence matrix to help schools rethink how we educate and prepare students to be productive members of our democracy. To see some of the work students are doing through our programs, watch this video.

In addition, we’re preparing cohorts of teachers to become global competence leaders through the Global Competence Certificate program.

Why did you do it?


Madiha and I founded World Savvy in the wake of 9/11, as we were seeing and experiencing alarming levels of xenophobia in New York City and nationally. We began to question whether, as a country, we were giving our children the tools to become well-informed global citizens. As we researched the issue, we discovered a critical gap in the U.S. K-12 education system, and we believed embedding high-quality, global competence education in our nation’s classrooms would help fill that gap.

During the past decade, as demographics across the U.S. continued to shift, with local communities becoming more ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse, global competence has taken on increased importance.

Over the past 13 years, World Savvy has engaged more than 380,000 students in partnership with 2,200 teachers to examine global issues, identify potential solutions, and implement those solutions in their communities and around the world. Through this work, students have developed an understanding of the complexities and interdependency of global events, strengthened their problem-solving skills, become open to new ways of thinking, and taken informed action, based on issues that are important to them.

How did you make an informed decision to invest so much of your time and life in this?

Having studied economic and political development, and with a background in education, I see education as the great leveler, with an incredible ability to affect change.

As we conducted research in preparation for launching World Savvy, we identified an opportunity to affect change in a very powerful way. We’re proud of the systemic impact we’ve begun to have, particularly in our core markets of San Francisco, Minneapolis/St Paul, and New York City.

What is your next big step?

We’re in the process of launching an online community where students will be able to share their plans for addressing global and community issues, collaborate with and support others, access expert advisors, and receive small grants to help fund their work. In addition, the community will provide a platform from which we can support teachers, and share resources, case studies and specialized knowledge and skills.

The energy and passion we see from both students and teachers about addressing global issues, and their ability to affect change as social entrepreneurs is infectious. By 2020, our goal as an organization is to have reached 1.4 million students and 10,000 teachers, and our online community will be a part of that work, with more than 5,000 young social entrepreneurs active in the community, and more than 10,000 plans posted and shared.

For more information, please visit:

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