Intrapreneurship is a term used in the technology world that is defined as “successful adaptation of entrepreneurial attitudes and strategies inside of a bureaucratic organization.” Social intrapreneurship borrows the attitudes and some of the strategies of entrepreneurship that turn technological innovation into start-up companies, to turn unmet needs and opportunities inside an organization into activities and programs that support members of the organization. At MIT, this means innovation that helps the community to strengthen itself. Social intrapreneurship activities are “learning by doing good.”
There are many examples of social intrapreneurship at MIT, including:
- Graduate Student Resources for Easing Friction and Stress Program
The Resources for Easing Friction and Stress (REFS) Program is a graduate-student-run, department-based, peer support program. In 2001, a group of Chemistry graduate students concerned about the effects of stress and conflict on themselves and their peers took a mediation training course run by the MIT Office of Student Citizenship. The REFS Program provides informal, confidential mentorship and conflict management support for personal problems, disputes with lab members, and communications issues with faculty advisors. The program spread to other departments, and in 2015 the Graduate Student Council is expanding it to serve all graduate students. The REFS Program is a model volunteer program that advances a respectful and caring community.
- Medical Staff Rep Program
The MIT Medical Department has long had a confidential patient advocacy program designed to help patients resolve any issues or concerns in their experience with the department. Medical staff had no such support when they faced difficult interactions. To assess needs and motivate change, staff members conducted a climate survey, and the survey results led the leadership to support a program for medical staff similar to the REFS Program.
- Graduate Community Fellows Program
The Office of the Dean for Graduate Education (ODGE) supports and organizes a group of graduate students who work to enhance the community life of graduate students. The program is responsive to community needs; campus programs supporting the ODGE mission can request fellows who work on a wide range of projects. The program is a model for rebalancing, for graduate students, the Educational Triad described in Section 4.
- You Are Welcome Here Campaign
The You Are Welcome Here campaign placed hundreds of signs around the MIT campus starting in 1999 (and repeated in 2004 and 2010) affirming that the office residents support a safe and inclusive environment for LBGTQ people at MIT. These small signs, displayed by many with pride, have helped foster a welcoming, inclusive community. The campaign has had national impact.
- Artists Beyond the Desk
The Artists Beyond the Desk program is one of many initiatives started by the Working Group on Support Staff Issues, a group that works to address issues of concern to support staff employees at MIT. MIT is fortunate to have support staff talents of many kinds, including excellence in the performing arts. The regular performances by MIT staff bring joy to our community.
- First Generation Program
The First Generation Program (FGP) builds community among MIT students, faculty, alumni, and staff who were the first in their families to graduate from college. The FGP was begun by a staff member who saw the unmet needs of first-generation students. First known at MIT through its inspiring “Who am I?” posters along the Infinite Corridor, the FGP now provides a supportive community for the 14% of our undergraduates who lack the privilege of having family members with experience applying to and navigating college.
- Employee Resource Groups
Employee resource groups (ERGs) are groups led by employees who share interests, issues, and a common bond or background. Members of these groups create a positive work environment at MIT by actively contributing to the Institute’s mission, values, and efforts specific to inclusion, such as recruitment and retention. ERGs were established first at Lincoln Laboratory and subsequently on campus, where they have contributed to employee engagement, satisfaction, and professional development for more than 400 members.
- ESL for Service Employees Program
MIT provides English as a second language (ESL) classes for MIT service staff employees to help them gain confidence and professional skills in their work. Classes and tutoring are offered by volunteers (students, staff, faculty, and retired employees) during the service staff employee’s regular work shift, including at night to accommodate the schedules of night-shift workers. The program advances a respectful and caring community for service staff. The program has helped workers achieve personal milestones such as US citizenship, GED certificates (equivalent to high school diploma), and professional licenses. (see also News Office article)
- Institute Diversity Summit
The Institute Diversity Summit is an annual symposium organized at MIT since 2011 by a volunteer group nucleated by CRD and CSDI. The summits have attracted up to 700 people around themes such as “diversity and excellence,” “meritocracy and inclusion,” and “demystifying diversity.” They have kindled a sense of excitement about inclusive excellence by engaging a broad cross-section of the MIT community in topics members care about. (News Office articles 2012, 2013, 2014, and site 2015.)
Each of these examples shows MIT’s core values in action. All of them arose through the creativity and innovation of community members engaging in collaborative problem solving. All exhibit learning by doing.