Inside USD

USD Social Innovation Challenge Win Aids Haiti

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tiffany Owen has an idea to create a cleaner San Diego and provide clean water to Haiti at the same time.

Now she has $5,000 to help make it a reality.

Owen, a junior with a double major in business administration and sociology, led the winning team in USD’s Center for Peace and Commerce’s first Social Innovation Challenge.

The  goal of Owen’s “Clean California Clean Haiti Campaign” is to reduce water-born diseases like cholera in Haiti. The plan involves distributing custom recycling bags and collecting them each week. Volunteers will sort the recycling and the campaign will redeem it for cash used to purchase and install water pumps and filters in villages in Haiti.

The competition, administered by USD’s Center for Peace and Commerce, invited students to submit proposals for either a new venture to address social and environmental challenges facing the world or to create a consulting project for an existing organization. The awards were announced April 29 at a luncheon sponsored by Anthony’s Fish Grotto.

Owen’s team, “Imagine Haiti Tomorrow,” includes two other USD students, Chris Voets and Christian Urbano, along with students from St. Mary’s College, Lucas Monroe and Trevor Condon. The students did relief work together in Haiti in 2010. Their well-detailed proposal outlines how they plan to start a pilot program in La Jolla of 322 homes. After expanding to 800 homes within the first year, they estimate revenue of $36,000 and $135,000 in three years with 3,000 homes. They have already partnered with AquaSun International, a manufacturer of the water purification systems, to receive a discount on the water purification systems.

The $5,000 is approximately the amount of projected costs to get the project started, Owen said, including $3,200 for a used truck. Her team has already raised funds for the purchase and installation of three water filters from personal savings and fundraisers. They plan to go to Haiti on May 24, right after finals. Cholera outbreaks have been increasing since the 2010 earthquake. Since last fall, more than 230,000 people, 2.3 percent of Haiti’s population, have been infected, largely in rural areas.

Judges were impressed by each of the 16 proposals they received for the initial challenge.

“The students’ proposals were amazing,” said Judge Charlie Piscitello, PETCO senior vice president of Human Resources and member of USD’s Center for Peace and Commerce’s Executive Advisory Committee. “I was impressed by the range of ideas, creativity, thoughtfulness and passion that students demonstrated for their ideas. When we are challenged to take these great ideas and translate them into ‘commerce for good’ everyone wins.”

Patricia Marquez, associate professor in the USD School of Business Administration and the center’s director, agreed. “The results of this first challenge confirm our belief in student creativity and entrepreneurship for finding solutions to world problems and creating a more peaceful and sustainable world. We look forward to expanding the Social Innovation Challenge next year to include more students who want to put their ideas into action.”

Second place and $3,000 was awarded to Tipiwa Mabutho, a first-year MBA student from Botswana whose “Project Brain-Gain” will create an online platform to engage Africans living outside the continent in Africa’s economic activity and growth by providing them with credible and reliable information.

Two projects tied for third and will each receive $1,500. A team of three students, Justine Darling and Chris Morales, graduate students in USD’s Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies; and Rohini Sankapal, a first-year MBA student, proposed “Ethical and Local Sourcing at USD” to work with the USD Torero Store and other on-campus stores to bring locally and ethically sourced products to campus. Elika Dadsetan, a graduate student in peace and justice studies, proposed “Word Play!” an after-school program for high-risk youth focused on literacy.

Four other finalists received a $250 award.

The awards were made possible by a generous donation of $15,000 from John and Nancy Jo Cappetta. John Cappetta is president of Cappetta Capital Partners LLC, and a graduate of USD’s School of Business Administration.

“We very much appreciate our distinguished panel of judges who put a great deal of thought and effort into selecting the winners,” Marquez said. In addition to Piscitello, judges were Siyamak Khorrami, senior business analyst, Skyriver Communications and a USD graduate; Peg Ross, director of Human Capital for the Grameen Foundation; Helder Sebastiao, assistant professor in USD’s School of Business; Necla Tschirgi, visiting professor in the School of Peace Studies; and Laura Hetzel, a USD MBA candidate.

USD’s Center for Peace and Commerce is a joint effort by USD’s School of Business Administration and the Joan B. Kroc School of  Peace Studies to prepare new generations of “change agents” to build a more sustainable world through innovative thinking and action, by integrating business principles and effective management with unique ideas for peace building and poverty alleviation.

— Liz Harman

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