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Jonathan Lewis

Jonathan Lewis

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My Three Favorite Things at Stanford

Posted: 05/31/11 02:40 PM ET

Once a year, I teach a course at the University of California Berkeley campus about social entrepreneurship (fancy talk for trying to improve the world by building smart, leveraged, high-impact institutions of change).

I respect Berkeley and all that it stands for. Public education open to all who earn it, superior scholarship, Nobel Prize Winners on seemingly every pathway, bookshelves brimming with knowledge, cutting edge thinkers and pioneering science, new ideas advanced and old ideas revisited.

But I also love visiting the Stanford campus for three tipping point reasons:

One, the Stanford Cantor Arts Center is home to a splendid collection of 170 works by my favorite sculptor, Auguste Rodin. Food for the eye and soul.

Two, at the nearby Stanford Shopping Center, the Palo Alto Creamery Fountain & Grill offers up the best banana cream pie in California, maybe the world. Food for the, well, just food.

Three, the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) is the world's premier magazine for, as the title implies, social innovators. Food for the future.

SSIR is one of only a handful of magazines to which I still subscribe in hard copy. Another is Foreign Policy, devoted to global politics, economics and out of the box ideas. I read both cover to cover, but SSIR is always at the top of my "must read" stack.

From a recent SSIR, a sampling of current articles:

"Under One Roof" -- One-stop centers offer a safer future for victims of domestic violence.

"Better Vision for the Poor" -- Social enterprises are attempting to provide eyeglasses to the 500 million to 1 billion poor people in the world who need them.

"Retailing with Heart" -- Venture into a Panera Cares café and you'll see the same menu and racks of freshly baked breads that are staples at the 1,400 other Panera Bread restaurants in the United States. However, instead of a cash register, there's a donation box where customers pay on the honor system.

"For Love or Lucre" -- A veteran social entrepreneur provides a guide to those who are thinking through the thorny question of whether to create a nonprofit, a for-profit, or something in between.

Regina Star Ridley, SSIR's Publishing Editor (and an Opportunity Collaboration Delegate), presents the readable voice of social change. A few more headlines from the recent issue: "Money Makes People Stingy;" "Welfare Works Better than Bootstraps;" "Turning a Profit by Helping the Poor."

I don't know if either Stanford or U.C. Berkeley teach courses on spy craft, but renown spy master Bill Donovan, founder of the OSS, the CIA's predecessor, once noted that spies (and in this he surely anticipated social entrepreneurs) should be "high minded without being soft headed." If you fit that description, SSIR is a damn good thriller.