You can’t make a difference sitting in a classroom, says third-year student Rebecca Darling, SSH’15, an international affairs and human services combined major. “You need to work directly with the people and communities you want to help.”

 It’s a lesson Darling learned as part of a team capstone course in social entrepreneurship, and one that was validated when the venture became a finalist at this spring’s sixth annual Clinton Global Initiative University conference, in St. Louis, Mo. She and a trio of teammates—Abhi Nangia, SSH’13, Gabrielle Page, S’13, and Anahi Santoyo, SSH’16, who is majoring in international affairs—were recognized for their project Camino Nuevo (“New Path”), a business platform empowering a group of impoverished women in La Chureca, Nicaragua, to design and distribute handcrafted jewelry made from recycled materials.

The conference convened thought leaders, celebrity activists, and more than 1,000 students from around the world—all with the goal of developing innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges, particularly in public health and the alleviation of extreme poverty.

Camino Nuevo, backed by a $4,000 grant from Northeastern’s Office of Fellowships, finished in the top 15 out of 300 entrants in the conference’s highly competitive venture challenge. “It was a great honor to be named a finalist,” says Darling. “We were told that we had both a great idea and a great presentation.”

Darling reports that the social venture has proved profitable for the women of La Chureca. In April, each woman sold around $100 worth of earrings, necklaces, and bracelets—amounting to a tenfold increase in monthly income.

Social entrepreneurship’s power to alleviate poverty is a frequent talking point of Dennis Shaughnessy, an executive professor in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business who led the capstone course. He says, “Social entrepreneurship is an alternative to the ‘me first’ method of business. It can’t solve all the world’s problems, but it can be used as a tool to serve others.”

Up next for Camino Nuevo: returning to La Chureca to assess the social venture’s longer-term impact on the community.