The event, held each A-Term and C-Term, coincides with the time that the Great Problems Seminar’s students are choosing project topics. “We also have Great Minds speakers attend some of our ID2050 classes,” says Kris Wobbe, associate dean of undergraduate studies. “This year, Martin Burt will speak to two of them. He attends many of the GPS classes in the week that he is here, and students are encouraged to meet with him individually while he is on campus.”
Burt, founder of Fundacion Paraguaya and WPI social entrepreneur in residence, and his wife, Dorothy Wolf, local coordinator for WPI’s Paraguay Project Center, offer the university a portal to the international stage of social entrepreneurship. Burt and Wolf line up speakers for the Great Minds series, bringing stories of innovation and the effects of empowerment right to Worcester. Wobbe calls the pair “an incredible resource.”
“They suggest wonderful people and then do much of the work of arranging the visit,” she says. “They meet all of these people through connections in the social entrepreneurship world. They are looking for people of interest to our students, those helping to empower people in underserved parts of the globe.”
In addition to Burt, another speaker this year is Rodrigo Baggio, founder and president of the Center for Digital Inclusion (CDI), based in Brazil.
CDI seeks to use information and communication technology to empower people to work against poverty and stimulate entrepreneurship. Baggio is also senior vice president of Ashoka, a worldwide network of social entrepreneurship. He has won awards from UNICEF, UNESCO, Time, Fortune,CNN, and the World Economic Forum, to name just a few. The World Entrepreneurship Forum named him Entrepreneur of the World in 2014.
“We are living in the knowledge age, but 79 percent of the people of our planet are digitally excluded,” Baggio said to the Skoll Foundation, a California-based group that celebrates social change makers, in 2005. “We believe that bringing technology can help them see a whole different set of opportunities. We teach people technology to help transform their reality.”
Burt will also participate as a panelist. In addition to Fundacion Paraguaya, he is also co-founder of Teach a Man to Fish, a U.K.-based organization that sets up businesses in schools in underserved nations, to educate and teach entrepreneurship as a way out of poverty. Fundacion Paraguaya, meanwhile, serves to also fight poverty and to foster sustainable agricultural education. In 2012 through the foundation’s use of a novel tool, the Poverty Stoplight, 5,050 families’ income rose above the poverty line, while 550 women were lifted out of poverty in all of the program’s 50 poverty indicators, according to the group’s website.
In addition to providing access to these remarkable individuals to the WPI community, Wobbe also encourages attendance from other local colleges and organizations. For example, in the past Seven Hills Global Outreach have taken advantage of this opportunity to hear the speakers’ inspiring stories, she says.
Martin Burt will be available at a Brown Bag Lunch at noon Tuesday (Sept. 29), in the Chairman’s Room of the Rubin Campus Center. Beverages and desserts are provided. After the 4 p.m. panel discussion, attendees are invited to stay for a reception. Burt will also be on campus the rest of the week. Anyone interested in meeting with him should contact Sara Ringer (firstname.lastname@example.org).