Executive Education

The Southern California Symposium: New Strategies for the Region's Future


About the Southern California Symposium

Even for a place well-practiced at reinvention, Southern California faces an uncertain future. The climate and the demography have shifted. A deep transformation has reshaped the economy. The landscape itself is in flux as we reimagine where we live and how we move.

The USC Price Center for Social Innovation’s executive education program—the Southern California Symposium— challenges local leaders to think deeply and collaboratively about the region’s future and to develop long-term solutions. The Symposium is emerging as an important venue for deliberation and innovation, its alumni serving as an interconnected and diverse cohort of change makers.

The participants, 20-25 in all each year, are selected from public service, politics, business, the arts, philanthropy and NGOs to represent a variety of interests, geographies, talents and experiences. Students bring issues they grapple with in their civic and professional lives to the Symposium and collaborate in the search for solutions. Upon successful completion of the program, students receive an Executive Education Certificate in Social Innovation from USC.

The Symposium meets for four weekend sessions from February to May, midday Friday through Saturday afternoon. Each session features interaction with a nationally recognized NGO leader or advocate. There are intimate exchanges with panels of local policy makers, and learning sessions with prominent scholars on housing, transportation, economic development and health care. In addition, students participate in an extended scenario-building exercise led by Spitfire Strategies. They learn social innovation strategies from top practitioners and receive communications coaching from The Goodman Center.

Between sessions, students’ engagement and learning continues online. Working in small groups, students undertake case studies with hands-on instruction by USC faculty. Presentations on those projects, which take on specific policy challenges, are featured at a fifth session, an evening event in early June that completes the program.

The Southern California Symposium emphasizes a search for solutions that draw together the public, private and NGO sectors and that aim for scalability and sustainability through social innovation and social entrepreneurship. At the heart of our approach is a conviction that transformational change should benefit society at large, rather than individual segments or individuals, and that such change occurs by challenging assumptions, equilibria and structures that are too often taken for granted.

2018 Session Schedule & Content

Learn more about our 2018 sessions and watch highlights.

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2018 Faculty

The So Cal Symposium faculty are nationally recognized leaders or advocates in their respective fields.

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2018 Cohort

The 2018 Symposium cohort is composed of 26 visionary leaders from a range of industries from public, private, and nonprofit organizations.

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2018 Final Projects

Working collaboratively, in five small teams, the Symposium’s 2018 Cohort identified deeply intractable social challenges facing the region — including housing, education, foster youth, and economic development — and applied a social innovation framework to develop long-term, sustainable, and novel solutions to each.

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The director of the Symposium is Prof. Roberto Suro who holds a joint appointment at the Price School and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Immediately before joining the USC faculty in 2007, Suro served for seven years as the founding director of the Pew Hispanic Center. Prior to that he had spent nearly 30 years as a journalist with major publications, including The New York Times and The Washington Post.

The director of studies for the spring 2018 Symposium will be David Morse, who until recently was Chief Communications Officer at the Atlantic Philanthropies. Now a senior visiting fellow at USC, Morse has been at the center of innovation in social policies for four decades, serving in leadership positions at major foundations, universities and on Capitol Hill.