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From Demanding Change to Making It.

The Burnes Center designs and implements practical solutions to society’s hardest problems. We develop innovative, participatory, and equitable approaches to solving public problems using new technology.

from the burnes center

  • Listening to the Unheard: Mexico’s Unprecedented Effort to Rebuild Trust in its Justice System

    Burnes Center Director Beth Simone Noveck co-authored an article on GovLab Fellow Dino Cantu’s experience creating The Encuentro Nacional para una Agenda de Seguridad y…

    Jun. 10, 2024 | Beth Simone Noveck and Sam DeJohn | Reboot Democracy
  • New Jersey Co-Creates AI Strategy With Public-Sector Staff

    Burnes Center Director Beth Simone Noveck co-authored a GovTech article on how New Jersey is building an ethical framework for AI in state government.

    Jun. 04, 2024 | Beth Simone Noveck and Allison Chris Myers | Government Technology
  • Rebooting Democracy – News That Caught Our Eye #18: May 28th, 2024

    Updates, research, and change-making that caught Burne’s Center’s Artificial Intelligence and Social Impact Fellow Jay Kemp’s eye, stories related to ways in which AI is…

    May. 28, 2024 | Jay Kemp | Reboot Democracy

Burnes center projects

  • Impact Studio: Unlocking Literacy

    Convening community conversations on improving literacy and equity.

  • InnovateMA – AI For Impact

    Solving public sector problems by tapping into the potential of Artificial Intelligence and the talent of Northeastern students.

  • InnovateUS

    Delivering free online learning for public servants by public servants on data, digital, and innovation skills with an emphasis on evidence-based and equitable approaches.

  • Reboot Democracy

    Advancing collective intelligence with artificial intelligence.

  • Power at Work

    Contributing to a discourse in the United States that emphasizes the importance of collective action and puts workers and worker power at the center of…

  • The Internet We Deserve

    A Lecture Series on the history and possibilities of the Internet.

  • Impact Studio: Election Subversion

    Bringing together diverse experts to counter efforts that undermine the integrity of U.S. elections.

  • A Healthier Democracy

    Leveraging AI to drive civic engagement and economic opportunity.


  • America’s Biggest Tax Scam May Finally End

    Burnes Center Director Beth Simone Noveck spoke with David Sirota about the 20-year war waged by tax-prep companies to stop the government from letting people…

    Jun. 07, 2024 | Arjun Singh | Lever Time with David Sirota
  • Biden taps NLRB chair for new term, seeking to lock in Democratic majority

    Burnes Center Senior Fellow, Seth Harris, discusses the nomination of National Labor Relations Board Chair Lauren McFerran for her third term.

    May. 24, 2024 | Daniel Wiessner | Reuters
  • Biden Moves to Extend Labor Board Chief as He Courts Unions

    Burnes Center Senior Fellow, Seth Harris, discusses the nomination of National Labor Relations Board Chair Lauren McFerran for her third term.

    May. 23, 2024 | Jordan Fabian | Bloomberg

upcoming events

  • Workshop

    InnovateUS: Incorporating Design, Collective Imagination, and Future Speculation in Public Sector Work




  • Workshop

    InnovateUS: Evaluating Effectiveness and Efficiency through Benefit-Cost, Cost-Effectiveness, and Risk Analyses





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 implement 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.


  • 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

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.”



The challenges societies face today cannot be solved with yesterday’s toolkit. The Burnes Center for Social Change at Northeastern University 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.


Get involved.

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