Impact House

RECAP: Global Social Impact House 2019


This January 2019, nineteen social innovators representing 9 countries convened at Cotton Tree Lodge in Belize for a week of learning, community building, and personal + professional development. Each of these innovators was eligible to apply by completing the Center’s free Coursera in Social Impact Strategy. Fellows took time to reflect in nature and home in on some of the most pressing questions surrounding their personal purpose and enterprise. Here’s a recap of this year’s program highlights.

Build Community

During the program, Fellows took the time to get to know one another and find shared connections. This laid the groundwork for deep collaboration throughout the week and beyond.

Fellows stayed in riverside cabanas. (Photo: Trisha Crookes)

Armando (pictured) and the farm team helped supply fresh, local produce grown right onsite for meals throughout the week. (Photo: Trisha Crookes)

Fellows met in small groups at the beginning of each day to check-in, reflect, and set intentions.

Fellows took time to tell the story of where they came from, the work they’re engaged in, and where they’re going. Teams then synthesized their findings to discover shared themes and values.

Fellows relaxed around the fire in the evening.

Create Every Day

Fellows dove into the process of applying creative principles and design thinking to their work, and assessed their ventures using social impact tools and frameworks.

Dr. Peter Frumkin from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice led sessions building on the framework from the Coursera class on topics such as “The Most Important Sentence” and risk assessment for social ventures.

Fellows worked on developing the “Most Important Sentence” of their work: a balanced, descriptive summary of mission, scope of impact, and audience.


Gray Garmon – Director of the Center for Integrated Design in the School of Design and Creative Technologies at the University of Texas in Austin – taught sessions on human-centered design fundamentals. Gray’s workshops centered around three core principles of human-centered design: “Understand. Make. Repeat.”

Fellows interviewed one another about their habits, lifestyles, and preferences for an exercise developing a product or service using human-centered design.

Using only the basic materials available, Fellows created quick prototypes of their product or service for their interview partner. (Balloons: encouraged. Flower crowns: optional.)

Fellows’ took a key question or challenge from their venture and created a rapid prototype. They then tested their new product or service through several rounds of user feedback and updates.

Believe in a Better World

Fellows applied key negotiations frameworks in simulated paired exercises.


Make it Happen

Fellows used vision-setting exercises to guide their learning and goals for the Global Social Impact House.

In addition to all the hands-on learning and integration, Fellows were also encouraged to find time throughout the week for reflection, and to appreciate the beautiful surroundings at Cotton Tree Lodge. Here, two staff enjoy an early morning birding tour – a well-spent hour that revealed over 40 species of birds. (Photo: Trisha Crookes)


Fellows and staff explored the nearby town of Punta Gorda (or Peini, in Garifuna) on a well-deserved afternoon off. They enjoyed a dockside picnic lunch, a dip in the ocean, a tour of Cotton Tree Lodge’s chocolate social enterprise, and ice cream (of course). (Can you tell we miss it already?)

Thank you to our incredible host, Cotton Tree Lodge, and their wonderful staff for taking such good care of the GSIH Fellows. We look forward to offering the Global Social Impact House again in the future. Think you might be interested in applying? Keep an eye on the program page, and take the Coursera in Social Impact Strategy: Anyone who has completed this class and is running a social impact venture, organization, or project is eligible to apply. Tuition is included free of charge for all Fellows.