Creating a Community Hub for Social Innovators

July 12, 2011 5:45 AM

Nick Marinello

For more than 20 years, Rick Aubry has been a leading figure in the world of social enterprise and innovation. As Tulane’s first assistant provost for civic engagement and social entrepreneurship, Aubry looks to use that experience to help the university develop and expand its capacity for community engagement.

Tulane Empowers


Rick Aubry is Tulane’s first assistant provost for civic engagement and social entrepreneurship. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

“The university has a bold vision to be preeminent among research universities in community engagement and social entrepreneurship,” says Aubry, who began his full-time duty as assistant provost on July 1.

A lecturer in management at Stanford Graduate School of Business before coming to Tulane, he is founder and CEO of Rubicon National Social Innovation and a five-time winner of Fast Company magazine’s “Social Capitalist Award.”

His initial endeavors in social entrepreneurship were in the “first wave” of the movement that arose in the late 1980s, during a political environment that favored smaller government. As traditional nonprofits tried to absorb more governmental functions, says Aubry, there was a greater need for entrepreneurial and management skills within those organizations.

“And so social entrepreneurship emerged at that time as the general term for how to think of and create truly game-changing ideas,” says Aubry.

He envisions Tulane as a leader in what he calls the “second wave” of social innovation, embracing a collaborative approach that involves “collective networks” of social entrepreneurs working toward the same goals.

“You just have to figure out how to weave together the ‘ecosystem’ of all these organizations trying to solve the problem,” he says.

Along with developing research and curriculum focused on social entrepreneurism, Aubry would like to see the university function as a kind of “community hub” to facilitate such networks.

The vision, he says, is “to reach outside of Tulane to engage the immediate New Orleans community and the global community of social entrepreneurs and make Tulane [the place] where they would like to have deep and lasting relationships as they do their work on social problems they are trying to solve.”



Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000