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How do you amplify the power of a brilliant idea?

You share it with the world. That’s the concept behind FixesU, a new partnership between Marquette and New York Times reporters David Bornstein and Tina Rosenberg to create an online curriculum around solutions-based journalism.

The pair write about creative solutions to social problems in the Times’ “Fixes” column. Bornstein, best-selling author of How to Change the World, delivered Marquette’s 2012 Burleigh Media Ethics Lecture.

Eager to spread the creative solutions featured in the “Fixes” columns, Bornstein mentioned the FixesU idea at a conference. Luckily, Dr. Jeff Snell, who leads the Social Innovation Initiative at Marquette, was present and pursued the opportunity.

“This is one more example of how Marquette makes a contribution to the burgeoning field of social entrepreneurship around the world,” Snell says.

Now, Marquette is creating a Wiki-style website  which encourages users to collaborate by adding to and editing content  to turn Bornstein’s and Rosenberg’s “Fixes” columns into miniature case studies that educators around the world can tap into. One example: Rosenberg’s column about an eye care network in India that achieved phenomenal success  helping more than 32 million people  by modeling itself after the business practices of the McDonald’s franchise.

“It’s among my personal favorites because the social enterprise model is solid and it’s aligned with affordable, effective health care,” Snell says.

A beta version of FixesU premiered at a social entrepreneurship conference in February. Eventually, the site will host more than 250 case studies drawn from “Fixes” columns on topics ranging from hunger to the environment to health care. The site’s collaborative format allows faculty to share syllabi and other materials and become “curators” for pages related to their disciplines, Snell says.

“By 2014, we have a modest goal of having thousands of faculty using it across the world,” he says. Rob Sieracki, Arts ’93, is leading the team that is designing the site, along with Mary Ferwerda, Law ’11, and Matt Ruud, Comm ’03, Grad ’06.

For Sieracki, a serial entrepreneur, it has been an incredible opportunity to collaborate with his alma mater on a project close to his heart. “I believe it will change the world,” Sieracki says of FixesU. “If we focus on how to solve problems rather than treat them, that’s a really powerful change in thinking.”

Marquette students will play a key role by providing feedback about how the tool will work in the classroom, Snell says. The team is already planning future iterations tied to K-12 curriculum and more. NSE

FixesU was one of just 10 projects awarded $100,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation after vying with 1,000 applicants from 85 countries.


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