At Penn State, a Former Frat House Becomes an 'Ideas Incubator' At Penn State, a Former Frat House Becomes an 'Ideas Incubator'
Innovation

At Penn State, a Former Frat House Becomes an 'Ideas Incubator'

by Julie Ma

June 3, 2012
Working with more than 50 student interns from Penn State, New Leaf built the framework that will serve as a model for other universities interested in the project: a two-year program for juniors and seniors that includes a semester of training, the opportunity to lead a semester-long project, a summer internship, and a personal mentor—plus a plethora of professional networking options in-house. 
 
Spud Marshall, co-founder of the co.space and executive director at New Leaf Initiative, says co.space is designed to build connections between college students and professionals so they can create change in their community. "We want to focus on where the real learning happens, which is outside of the classroom. We wanted to keep conversations going at the kitchen table, living room, dining table, and we thought, 'How can we intervene in that space?'" he says. "'What if you take these large properties in various towns, build things where students live beside real people and entrepreneurs—a whole category of people that we get inspired by?'" 
 
Rather than creating an entirely new network, Marshall hopes the co.space will take advantage of existing ones through partnerships with organizations like Echoing Green and Ashoka U. The key is a balance between entrepreneurs and "intrapreneurs," dreamers and "doers." For now, the co.space experiment will focus primarily on local food markets. Potential projects include starting a student farm at the university or figuring out how to transform food supply chains.

Twenty years from now, co.space organizers, hope, there will be one incubator in every country in the world. The team is in talks with leaders from 30 different cities—from Tel Aviv, Israel to Kingston, Jamaica—to launch similar spaces there. Eventually, cutting-edge video technology will allow innovators, entrepreneurs, and consultants to stay in constant communication and collaborate on projects across the globe.

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At Penn State, a Former Frat House Becomes an 'Ideas Incubator'