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Gary Nelson, Director of the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab

The American Underground (AU) is a diverse startup scene rich in social enterprises and deep civic engagement. One of only twelve ‘Google For Entrepreneurs’ hubs in North America, the AU facilitates co-working, networking, and community-building opportunities for 269 startups, including the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SIE) Lab of the UNC Chapel Hill School of Social Work.

Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab

The SIE Lab at the AU is an off-site extension of the SIE Lab launched through the Jordan Institute for Families at the UNC School of Social Work. This creative space aims to bring together MSW students with entrepreneurs in business, law, government, technology and other fields to think creatively and innovate ways to address and impact some of society’s most pressing problems, including poverty, homelessness, access to mental health care and other social issues. Gary Nelson, the Thomas Willis Lambeth Distinguished Chair in Public Policy, director of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the School of Social Work, leads these strategic efforts that align with UNC’s overall vision of making innovation fundamental to all that we do, and of the people, for the people.

“Innovation is made possible when people who have been working in isolation begin to work together, spurring our systems forward for shared social benefit”, Nelson said.

With a clear mission to heighten social impact for all citizens, the SIE Lab is at the forefront of this emergent space.

Think creatively and innovate ways to address and impact some of society’s most pressing problems

The SIE Lab is also a robust internship (field) opportunity for two Concentration Year Macro MSW students selected as Social Innovation Fellows. Under the leadership of Nelson, and the guidance of a field instructor, the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship program manager, a Social Entrepreneur-in-Residence, as well as other faculty, business and community leaders, Fellows will acquire knowledge and cultivate skills to lead and implement innovative, sustainable, scalable social change with measurable positive social impact.​​​​​​​

Spending field time in the American Underground space as well as the SIE Lab, Fellows will build a rich network in the innovation communities and hubs on campus, among other local educational institutions, in the community, and in the business and social service sector of the broader Research Triangle. This is also an education and experiential space for students, staff and faculty interested in exploring or launching a social innovation or enterprise, or highlighting impact oriented research and engaged scholarship.

To learn more about the Social Innovation Fellowship opportunity and the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship field education position contact Christina at

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