Inside USD

A Call for Social Innovators

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The call is going out to all University of San Diego students who have the will, passion and dedication to make a difference in the world. Through the Social Innovation Challenge (SIC) which is sponsored by USD’s Center for Peace and Commerce, in partnership with the USD Changemaker Hub, they can plug their ideas into a vehicle tailored to their call to action.

The SIC awards seed money for undergraduate or graduate students who want to launch a social venture by creating a for-profit or nonprofit organization in San Diego, the United States or the world.

The competition “invites students to take all the ideas and energy they have and implement a project they think can change the world,” explained Patricia Marquez, the center’s director. Ideas are designed to tackle social and environmental issues through efforts such as entrepreneurship, education or conflict resolution. Students are asked to develop proposals to achieve “the four P’s — people, profit, planet and peace.”

The inaugural competition, held last spring, awarded a total of $12,000 to four winning teams and four other finalists. Winning plans included proposals to provide clean water to Haiti, to create an online platform to engage Africans living outside the continent in its growth and economic activity. Through several generous donations, including ones from John Cappetta ’83 and his wife Nancy Jo, the competition in 2012 will award a total of $30,000.

Many students take courses in economic development, peace building or other areas in USD’s School of Business Administration or the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, the schools behind the center’s creation, that can provide a springboard for proposals. Students in the competition also work with real-world entrepreneurs as mentors to create collaborative relationships with San Diego’s professional community. Mentors guide students in the learning process and offer support on how to conceptualize, articulate and present their proposals. The center’s executive advisory committee, also made up of entrepreneurs and CEOs from both the for-profit and nonprofit communities, provides guidance and support for the competition.

Building on the experience of the first challenge, the center is also offering several “Idea Labs” to help students gain knowledge and background in creating their proposals. Steven Wright, co-founder of 4 Walls International, which promotes sustainable development along the U.S.-Mexican border, spoke at the first lab in November. At a second lab held earlier this month, winners from the first challenge gave their final presentations discussing the challenges they faced in putting their ideas in practice and the strategies to overcome them. A third lab will be held on Feb. 1, 2012 featuring entrepreneurs from the business, social enterprise and nonprofit sectors working on the environment, global social issues and local technology solutions.

To enter the competition, students are required to submit a one-page application online by Feb. 17, 2012. Students invited to compete in the second phase of the challenge will make a presentation to the selection committee on March 2 and final proposals are due on April 2. Awards will be presented at a luncheon on April 27.

“I sense a lot of interest and excitement among students in competing in the 2012 challenge,” Marquez said. In fact, two teams have already submitted their initial proposals.

— Liz Harman

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