The University of Chicago

School of Social Service Administration Magazine

Donor's Gift Supports Social Innovation Fellowship A fellowship at SSA to help nonprofits improve their operations is entering its fourth year

The Social Innovation Summer Fellowship was initiated in 2012 through a generous gift from Howard Tiffen, who received an AM in 2009 from the University through its Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences, an interdisciplinary program that allowed Tiffen to take classes at SSA. He came to the University from a more than 40-year career in corporate finance.

Tiffen also completed the four-year certificate program in basic studies at the University’s Graham School of General Studies.

Tiffen returned to school because he wanted to understand what cities needed to revive themselves and regain population—–and ultimately he reached the conclusion that the private sector played an important role in combating poverty and delivering social services without creating dependency.

In giving to the Social Innovation Summer Fellowship—–the type of donation that makes such fellowships possible—–Tiffen says his aim was “to give students in the SSA master’s program a way to experience innovation in the social welfare setting, to put them in situations where the people around them were thinking outside the box, and give them a chance to participate in that. This isn’t about trying to find some new mousetrap, but about understanding how mousetraps work, and how they fail, and why.” Leah Eggers, who spent last summer with the Cara Program, has been the third fellow in the Social Innovation program, and Tiffen feels greatly encouraged by her experience. The fellowship will be given again this summer for someone to work at Cara, a Chicago program which helps the homeless and poor find employment.

“They have a very innovative approach to breaking the cycle of poverty,” Tiffen said of the Cara Program. “People who emerge from the program come out of it with a real feeling of self-worth, and a set of skills, so they can go out with confidence and look for work and become successful contributing members of society,” he says.