Social Entrepreneurship Initiatives (Students)

ELI undergraduate courses provide students with the opportunity to work in groups on projects to address a real problem or opportunity in the Duke or Durham communities. Below is a select list of projects from our most recent classes, as well as a list of projects that have had an impact over a sustained period of time.


AthLeaders is a program in which high school senior girls on the field hockey team teach middle school girls lessons to increase the participants’ confidence. This is achieved through the fun and casual format of field hockey. The Athleaders team will host five camp sessions during the semester with themes such as Goal-Setting & Risk Taking; Problem Solving & Conflict Management; and Failure & Self-Compassion.2016.

The Big Event

The Big Event is a one-day, student-run service event on Martine Luther King Jr. Day that brings Duke students and staff together to deliver high impact service to the Durham Community. This team aims to make MLK Day “a day on, not a day off” at Duke and provide a meaningful civic engagement experience for Duke students and the organizations they serve.2016.

Bull City APPetite

Bon APPétit is a mobile app that aims to reduce food waste and insecurity in The Research Triangle area. This app will provide a platform that connects individuals and organizations with excess food with individuals who need food or group who can repurpose the food that would otherwise go to waste. The app will feature an interactive map of the Triangle area showing pins for reported food waste locations and will educate the public about the issue of food waste and food insecurity and the ways they can help.2016.


CareConnect’s mission is to connect students struggling with mental illness to resources and support by increasing awareness and reducing stigma within affinity groups. The team created a mental health educational presentation and a printed manual groups can use to implement the program. They also established a partnership with CAPS to facilitate training and expand CareConnect with the opening of the new student health center.2016.

Let's Dance Durham

Through volunteer-based partnerships with university dance programs, college student-dancers volunteer to provide local public schools that are burdened with insufficient budgets for the arts an age-appropriate education in a variety of dance styles. Let's Dance Durham provides elementary public school children in Durham with a brief but comprehensive understanding of different forms of dance (i.e. African, Ballet, Modern, Indian) through fun, engaging, and active classes taught by student volunteers involved in the Duke Dance Program.2016.

Web Ignited

Web Ignited is an internet activism program where underrepresented high school students become effective advocates for issues in their communities. The Web Ignited team will facilitate weekly activities and discussions for high school students from area schools. Students will learn to identify community issues and how to conduct effective online research.2016.

The Bridge

The Bridge aims to validate the experiences and identities of Black and Latina college women, to encourage cross-cultural collaboration, and to provide a place for these women to exchange shared stories and experiences. Students created “The Bridge,” an online publication for Black and Latina women featuring creative writing, podcasts, and a live feed to share thoughts. The team secured $2,300 in funding from The Bassett Fund during the fall semester and created their website ( In spring 2016, the team won $5,00 from a UNC sponsored start-up challenge competition. They currently have 40 team members from Duke, UNC and other campuses producing content for the site.2015.


This team felt there was not an easy way to connect with other Duke students and alumni outside of the Duke campus. DUconnect worked to further the Duke community beyond physical delimitations by fostering individual connections between Duke community members wherever they were. The team planned to build a mobile app that allowed Duke students and alums in an area to “see” one another and provide suggestions of “Dukies” to connect with based on similar interests. The team secured support from the Alumni Association to build a mobile app. The project is currently on hiatus since team members are abroad and the Alumni Association is still updating their new alumni database.2015.


The goal of this initiative is to build relationships with professors willing to host an outing, create a student leader from each professor’s class, and gain a better understanding of Durham culture and what the city has to offer. Students pilot-tested an initiative aimed to facilitate meaningful relationships between students and professors and enhance student engagement in Durham by arranging professor-led outings for groups of 5-8 students. They organized three outings, including a hike, a discussion at Cocoa Cinnamon, and a futsol scrimmage. Project creators studying abroad this semester but strong potential for this project to continue with new leaders recruiting students from each of their classes to organize an outing with their class professor.2015.

Durham Kitchen Connection

Durham Kitchen Connection is a culinary training program for young adults with criminal records that provides students with the opportunity to interview with local restaurants and gain employment. Through this project, the team hopes to decrease the stigma against hiring former offenders. During the fall semester the team held a cooking skills session at a local restaurant for two Duke students and two Durham youths. Both youths were offered job interviews after the program and one secured a job offer. The team raised $300 toward a scholarship program to help their program attendees. This fall they will work with Duke Dining services to secure kitchen space – they have tentative support from chef Chris Holloway to utilize the test kitchen in the West Union. 2015.

Hire Possibilities

Foreign-born Americans often aren’t provided with adequate information or resources to help them secure adequate employment. The Hire Possibilities team aims to make career planning and career skills an integral part of the Durham Literacy Center’s ESOL curriculum. The team recruited qualified Duke student volunteers with knowledge and experience in resume writing, job search, and career planning to provide ESOL students with tools to formulate concrete goals, create career plans, and navigate the job market. They will organize training sessions during the fall 2016 semester.2015.

Solutions Journalism

“Solutions Journalism” aimed to create journalism that not only exposed societal problems but also encouraged civic engagement to work towards solutions to those problems. The goal of the team was to write a series of articles for Duke and Durham publications, all of which include a “call to action” for readers. These action steps were backed by research of Duke professors and grad students to bring credibility to the work. The team published an article (incorporating Professor Bob Korstad’s research) in The Chronicle and the Durham Herald Sun. The team created a database of professors willing to contribute material to write.2015.

The Girls’ Club

The Girls’ Club is a social outlet and supportive group for at-risk girls, ages 11-15 that live in predominantly minority Durham communities.  The club meets in community centers, is led by Duke women, and provides weekly mentoring, seminars, and field trips during the academic year. The Girls’ Club is supported by Duke’s Office of Community Affairs. The original founders were awarded the Samuel DuBois Cook Society Award for undergraduates in February 2005 based on their work on this project.Spring 2003.

Operation Snowball

Operation Snowball is a free weekend retreat for Durham middle school students. The retreat focuses on substance abuse prevention, leadership empowerment, eating disorders, gang involvement, and other teenage issues.  Snowball is a unique learning experience that provides a safe, comfortable space to explore these issues and to undergo a process of self-discovery and increased self-esteem.  A successful pilot program was held in 2005 with 50 middle school students and 20 Duke students with an established program running through 2008.  Currently, the program is in hibernation.Fall 2004.

Arts Connect

Student group engages elementary-age children in the Durham community in various forms of the arts – music, dance, and theater - during weekly hour-long workshops at two afterschool programs hosted by the Emily K Centers. There are currently 15 active Duke volunteer participants.Spring 2006.

Partners in Learning

A mutual partnership between Duke employees and Duke students in teaching English to Duke employees who do not speak English as their first language through an ESL (English as a Second Language) curriculum, as well as computer skills. PFL provides employees with opportunities for career advancement, and fosters meaningful relationships beyond academic and workplace setting.  In the summer of 2006, two programs created by Tony’s students, Partners for Literacy in Fall 2005 and Partners in Learning in Spring 2006, merged to form the current Partners for Learning. There are currently 3 on-campus tutoring sites and one site offering computer skills classes. There are currently ten active Duke volunteer participants.Fall 2005.

Camp Kesem

Students started a free, one-week, overnight, student-run camp for children in families affected by cancer.  The goal of the camp is to provide a place for children to have a safe, supportive network of caring individuals so that they gain strength from peers facing similar challenges.  Camp Kesem 2005 featured both the standard camp and a “high adventure” program for older campers.  Camp has been held for three summers and included counselors from UNC, NC State and other NC campuses. Over $100,000 was raised to finance the camp over through 2005. In 2010, 115 campers attended North Carolina's seventh and largest camp yet.  In the summer of 2011, North Carolina held its 9th and largest year of camp yet with 115 campers and 60 student counselors.Fall 2002.

Student U (ELI and Robertson Scholars Program)

Student U is a nonprofit organization offering low-income Durham middle school students the opportunity to improve their academic performance using the “Students teaching Students” model. Durham Middle School students attended a six week summer academic enrichment program, in small size classes taught and inspired by high school and college students. A Duke student team created the program based on the Breakthrough national model, raised the funds needed for the first year of the program, found a partner (Durham Academy), and implemented the program. As of today, the organization serves close to 400 students and was voted #1 non-profit in the Triangle area in 2009. 100% of STUDENT U’s students have graduated from high school.2005.

Smalltown Records

Smalltown Records exists to promote student music at Duke, to address the needs of student musicians as recording artists and to produce and distribute an annual compilation album of student musicians. The organization handles production, distribution, booking, publicity, and career guidance to provide each artist with as close to a real world record label experience as possible.2006.

Crayons 2 Calculators

Teachers in the Durham Public Schools (DPS) have traditionally spent money out of their own pockets to equip their classrooms and to make sure that their students from impoverished backgrounds have the school supplies they need.  A team of Duke students researched and then implemented the idea of providing a warehouse full of such equipment and supplies that are free and easily accessible to new and veteran teachers alike. Crayons 2 Computers became an official nonprofit organization in the Durham community, serving the Triangle. They operate a warehouse in downtown Durham that opens for supply giveaway events. Since its origin, C2C has distributed more than $100,000 in school supplies.Fall 2005.


In order to reduce the incidence of sexual misconduct on campus, PACT uses a bystander intervention model to drive student intervention. The program seeks to train, empower and educate Duke students to recognize and prevent sexual misconduct before it happens and change Duke culture around the issue. PACT is now embedded in the Duke Women's Center with dedicated staff leadership, student volunteers, and multiple student trainings per semester. They have trained over 200 students to date.2010.

Duke Habitat for Humanity-Operation Reinvent/Youth Build

Operation Reinvent uses the untapped resource of Duke students to significantly improve student’s participation beyond just building houses. The team led a Youth Build from fundraising to the building of a house, created internships in the local HFH affiliate and reenergized the Duke chapter of Habitat. Having helped youth ages 5-25 raise $50,000, the Youth Build operation built three houses.2006.

Commercial and Social Ventures (Alumni)

ELI supports alumni through coaching and advising when they are starting new ventures. Alumni have gone on to create many social and commercial ventures after their graduation from Duke. A few successful social enterprises can be seen here.