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Center for Innovation and Leadership

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Department Overview

Welcome to The Center for Innovation and Leadership at Swarthmore College!

Leadership in the 21st century demands vision and a sense of purpose, cross-cultural fluency, creative thinking, innovation, and flexibility. The Center for Innovation and Leadership (CIL) provides opportunities for Swarthmore students to develop the abilities to lead and inspire, to listen and learn in ways that meet the challenges of our time, and to reflect the values of our community. Thus the CIL will not only promote leadership but also ethical leadership and not only creativity but also creativity invested in the public good.

The CIL strives to give all Swarthmore students the individualized support they need to become strong imaginative leaders of tomorrow. We support students by creating opportunities to hone their leadership skills in capacities like team-based collaboration, the development of social and cultural capital, and inventive thinking processes. Students, staff, and faculty are all welcome to bring forth new and interesting ideas under the umbrella of the CIL. 

Mission Statement

The CIL cultivates co-curricular opportunities at the intersection of leadership, entrepreneurship, and management for students to develop into creative, adaptable, ethical individuals.  

Our Values

Embrace Failure
Have Fun
Dream Big
Get Stuff Done
Work Collaboratively 

Connect With Us!

The Center for Innovation and Leadership sends weekly email newsletters with information on upcoming programs, cool things happening in innovation and leadership, and other stuff that makes us laugh. Subscribe to the CIL Newsletter here!


Fall 2019 Programs

TRI-Co Hackathon - September 27th - 28th

The Tri-Co Hackathon brings students from Haverford, Swarthmore, and Bryn Mawr together in a collaborative learning environment to engage with digital technology. Teams of 2-5 students have 24 hours to ideate and create a deliverable project that answers a specific problem. The weekend begins on a Friday with students forming teams and discussing project ideas. They have until 6:00 pm on Saturday to finalize their projects before they present to a panel of judges for a chance to win prizes. The Hackathon provides workshops for students with varying computer programming experience to learn skills in interface design, machine learning, and geographic information systems (GIS).

Impact Challenge - October 26th

Impact Challenge is a day-long design sprint that teaches students how to use human-centered design to solve social problems facing organizations in the greater Philadelphia area.  Co-hosted by the CIL, Haverford’s Innovation Program (HIP), and educators from Malvern Preparatory School it is an opportunity to learn skills in Design-Thinking, Business Model Canvas, Lean Star-up Model, and work on team. A local community partner is invited to present a challenge facing their organization and students design and present actionable solutions by the end of the day. 

Creativity in Research - November 7th & 8th

"Creativity in Research" is a book recently released by a team of design researchers that explores how creativity can play an important role in the research process. Amanda Cravens ‘04, an Honors History major, will be returning to Swarthmore College for a book reading and presentation, meeting with faculty members, and lead a workshop for students to apply practical skills. Amanda is a research social scientist for a US federal agency. She co-founded the Research as Design project to adapt design thinking training for researchers with Nicola Ulibarri, Anja Svetina Nabergoj, and Adam Royalty when she realized how much her past experience as a web designer was influenced her scholarship.

Find your Founders + SwatTank Kick-off - November 21st

Find Your Founders signals the official launch of the SwatTank Innovation Competition! If you're at all curious to know what to do once you have an idea, you'll definitely want to come. Find Your Founders has been designed for students to learn the ideation process and have a starting point for a business and/or social enterprise. This program feeds into SwatTank and will also give students an opportunity to connect with other students, brainstorm potential projects, and/or establish teams. We will also be running through the SwatTank schedule and timeline for the coming year that culminates at the final competition in April 2020. 

Rachel Simmons discusses how to fail successfully at her Failure Workshop hosted by the CIL in September. Read more about the workshop here...

Rachel Simmons discusses how to fail successfully at her Failure Workshop hosted by the CIL in September. Read more about the workshop here...

The CIL took 11 students to California for a week of experiential learning on the CIL @SF trip! More here...


SwatTank 2017 finalists

The finalists of the 2017 SwatTank Innovation Competition answer questions about their business pitches.


Students have the opportunity to learn, develop, and build skills through LINK workshops throughout the academic year.

The winning team of SwatTank 2016, Sedinam Worlanyo ‘17 (left) and Bolutife Fakoya ‘17, founded a company that produces artisanal backpacks from Africa, each made with a unique design and meaning. More here...

Rachel Simmons discusses how to fail successfully at her Failure Workshop hosted by the CIL in September. Read more about the workshop here...

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