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From Demanding Change to Making It.


The challenges societies face today cannot be solved with yesterday’s toolkit. The Burnes Center advances real-world impact by teaching individuals and institutions the skills needed to design and implement innovative and equitable solutions to our hardest problems. In the process, we are building a new field of social impact that leverages data, technology and community wisdom and the power of institutions to enable systems-level change in practice.


Change-makers are made, not born.

Everyone has the potential and the power to become a successful problem solver.

We cannot solve tomorrow’s challenges with yesterday’s tools.

Innovative technologies, policies, and partnerships are required for systems-level change.

How you Implementation matters.

Solving problems in practice requires going beyond innovative ideas to implementation of equitable solutions that measurably improve people’s lives.

The future depends upon all of us.

Tackling systemic public problems demands that we work closely with communities from day one.

upcoming events

  • Seminar

    Chokepoint Capitalism Book Talk

    Open to the public! The Burnes Center will cosponsor a talk by Cory Doctorow and Rebecca Giblin about their newest book, Chokepoint Capitalism: How Big…

    Ryder Hall


  • Workshop

    Social Media for Social Change with Cory Doctorow

    On December 5th at 12 pm at 271 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115, The Burnes Center for Social Changeand the Department of Journalism are hosting…

    The Burnes Center for Social Change


  • Workshop

    Writing for Social Change

    Northeastern University faculty are invited to learn more about “How to Turn Topic and Policy Papers into Engaging Narratives” in this two-hour workshop. Open to…

    The Burnes Center for Social Change, 271 Huntington Av


new from the burnes center

  • 7 Skills to Save the World

    Jul. 25, 2022 | Beth Noveck | TEDx NortheasternU
  • Graphic of people with puzzle pieces

    Solving Public Problems Accelerator

    The SPP Accelerator is a learning and coaching program to source and develop promising projects designed to improve education, learning, and development using data.

  • InnovateUS

    Offered by the GovLab (USA), this state collaborative supports public servants to deliver more effective, equitable and agile public services and policies through free training…


  • Northeastern researcher pledges to unlock power of cellphone-generated mobility data to benefit neighborhoods

    Oct. 20, 2022 | Alena Kuzub | [email protected]
  • Will Rail Labor Negotiations Derail Our Economy? Probably Not.

    Aug. 15, 2022 | Seth D. Harris
  • The American Faith I Was Raised In

    Aug. 07, 2022 | Caleb Gayle | The Atlantic


  • Education

    Teaching and learning the skills of social change and impact

  • Research

    Building the emerging field of global social change and impact

  • Convening

    Connecting communities of mission-driven leaders

  • Action

    Leading implementation of innovative solutions in key areas, including education equity, strengthening democracy and reducing gun violence


Solving Public Problems

Our free foundational course providing the skills to design and implement social change.

  • Tools and technologies for designing and implementing mission-driven projects
  • Ways to use Big Data and community wisdom to tackle problems  
  • How to combine subject matter expertise and problem-solving skills
  • An introduction to leading social and public innovators

(Northeastern students only)

Interactive exercises

Video tutorials

12-part online program


As a university-wide center, we look for new opportunities to collaborate with others engaged in social-impact work.


About the Burnes family

The Center is named in recognition of the generous investment made by the Burnes Family: Nonnie and Richard Burnes, and their three children, who have championed many social causes.

Nonnie Burnes, who passed away in August 2021, leaves behind a remarkable legacy defined by her selfless commitment to making real change in her communities and around the world. A 1978 Northeastern School of Law alumna, Nonnie pursued equality and justice, and was passionate about empowering others. She was a leader in the Massachusetts legal community and left a legacy of championing women’s rights and liberties. She upheld and advocated  these ambitious values while serving on Northeastern’s Board of Trustees and as a senior university fellow at the university’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs.   

“For all who were fortunate enough to know her, Nonnie Burnes was a pure joy; a person of unequaled spirit, courage, and grace, with a passion for helping others that defined her every undertaking.”



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