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 is launching a new executive education program—the Southern California Symposium— that will challenge local leaders to think deeply and collaboratively about the region’s future and to develop long-term solutions. Over time the Symposium will emerge as an important venue for deliberation and innovation, and its alumni will serve as an interconnected and diverse cohort of change makers.

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

The Symposium will meet for four weekend sessions from February to May, midday Friday through Saturday afternoon. Each session will feature interaction with a nationally recognized NGO leader or advocate. There will be 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 will participate in an extended scenario-building exercise led by Spitfire Strategies. They will learn social innovation strategies from top practitioners and will get communications coaching from The Goodman Center.

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

The Symposium will emphasize a search for solutions that draw together the public, private and NGO sectors and that aim for scalability and sustainability through social entrepreneurship. At the heart of our approach is a conviction that transformational change will 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.


Confirmed Speakers for 2018

Ali Noorani
Executive Director, National Immigration Forum and Author of the 2017 book “There Goes the Neighborhood: How Communities Overcome Prejudice and Meet the Challenge of American Immigration”





Elizabeth Currid-Halkett
Professor of public policy at USC and author in 2017 of “The Sum of Small Things: a Theory of the Aspirational Class.”






Rashid Robinson
Executive Director, Color of Change 






Cecilia Munoz
Vice President, Policy and Technology and Director of the National Network At New America









Richard Green
Lusk Chair in Real Estate
Professor, Price School of Public Policy and Marshall School of Business





Gary Painter 
Director, Price Center for Social Innovation





Adalai Wertman
Professor of Social Entrepreneurship, Marshall School of Business
Founding Director, Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab








Session 1:

Feb 23, Friday: 4:00pm to 9:30 pm
Feb 24, Saturday: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm

* Case study groups meet in person at least once with instructors while continuing work online.

Session 2:
April 6, Friday: noon to 9:30 pm
April 7, Saturday: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm

Session 3:
April 27, Friday: 8:00am – 5:00pm
April 28, Saturday: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm

Session 4:
May 18, Friday: noon to 9:30 pm
May 19, Saturday: 9:00am to 4:30 pm

Capstone Presentation:
June 1, Friday: 4:00pm to 9:30 pm

The fee for the program is $5,000. Fee reduction is available.


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.

For more information, please contact:
Price Center for Social Innovation

The Southern California Seminar is led by Roberto Suro, Associate Director of the USC Price Center for Social Innovation

Roberto Suro holds a joint appointment as a professor in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. He is an Associate Director of the Price Center for Social Innovation, and leads the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, an interdisciplinary university research center exploring the challenges and opportunities of demographic diversity in the 21st century global city. Suro’s latest book is Writing Immigration: Scholars and Journalists in Dialogue (U of CA Press, 2011) co-edited with Marcelo Suarez-Orozco and Vivian Louie. He is a non-resident Senior Fellow of the Brookings Institution, where his most recent publication is “Immigration and Poverty in America’s Suburbs” (2011) with Audrey Singer and Jill H. Wilson.