Participating as an Institution

The Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge (GSIC) connects student entrepreneurs from around the world, inviting them to develop and pitch sustainable business solutions to pressing social, cultural and environmental issues. Participants gain hands-on experience, mentoring, and network connections, while developing a heightened awareness of global responsibility as each initiative must advance at least one of the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations. Since 2011, the Fowler GSIC, a partnership with Acumen and the University of St. Thomas, has inspired nearly 1,000 student teams from over 17 countries and distributed over $400,000 to student ventures promoting positive sustainable change.

University / College Registration:

  • July 1, 2019, to November 30, 2019
    Participating universities/colleges register their participation by November 30, 2019, and pay the registration fee by December 15, 2019.

Competitive Submissions / Pitching for Student Participants:

  • February 26, 2020
    Round 1 Submissions ("The Problem") are due
  • April 23, 2020
    Round 2 Submissions ("The Solution") are due
  • June 5, 2020
    Round 3 Pitch Decks are due a week before the pitching date
  • June 12-13, 2020
    Finalist students pitch their proposed innovative solutions (in-person or virtually) at the Fowler GSIC 2020 Final in San Diego, California, USA.

The Fowler GSIC is an opportunity for students to turn their ideas for sustainable social or environmental impact into reality via resources, mentorship, and a chance to secure seed funding.

Participants are asked to select a social or environmental issue of their choice, and work through the following stages:

  1. Study the existing landscape of the problem to discover gaps in existing solutions and identify levers of change.
  2. Develop a business plan around an innovative solution that addresses these gaps.
  3. Pitch the proposed solution for a chance to obtain seed funding and other resources at the global final.

Participating universities / colleges:

  • Register their Fowler GSIC participation by November 30, 2019, and pay the registration fee by December 15, 2019.
  • Leverage online platform and other resources made available by CPC (as the university sees fit) to encourage and support student participation in the challenge through workshops, DIY resources, mentorship, and other guidance.  
  • Run the first two rounds of the challenge and nominate up to two finalist teams that get to represent the university at the global final in San Diego, California, and pitch (in-person or virtually) to a panel of judges for up to $50,000+ in seed funding and other resources.

The Fowler GSIC is also an emerging platform for students to build and connect with a community of like-minded individuals and organizations from around the world who are passionate about creating positive change in the world.

 video 5 minutes

The Fowler GSIC is run by the Center or Peace and Commerce (CPC) at the University of San Diego (USD), in partnership with universities/colleges around the world. The CPC is a collaborative effort between two USD schools: the School of Business and the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and is focused on preparing new generations of changemakers.


Round 1 Submission Requirements:

Student-led teams “apprentice with” a social or environmental issue of their choice, and produce a visual map/chart/infographic and an executive summary of the issue that demonstrates their understanding of this issue.

Round 1 Submission has three components:

  1. A visual map, chart or infographic that visually showcases a deep and nuanced understanding of the specific social or environmental issue studied by the student(s). This document should cover the problem and its causes, examine the current solution pool & players, identify gaps in the current service provision, and highlight where opportunities for change may lie. Excellent submissions usually address a narrow enough issue to demonstrate thorough analysis and give deliberate thought to the specific community, customer, or client that will be the key beneficiary of the solution to be developed in Round 2.
  2. An executive summary that explains the challenge (maximum 2,000 words). This summary should work as an aid to the visual map, and help the viewer interpret the main components: the problem landscape, the existing solutions landscape, and the current gaps and opportunities.
  3. A bibliography of all the sources cited in the executive summary or the visual map.

Additional Resources:

Round 2 Submission Requirements:

Student-led semi-finalist teams craft an innovative solution to their chosen problem or issue and demonstrate this proposed solution’s impact, feasibility, sustainability, scalability or replicability, as well as its acceptability or desirability to the community or target population.

Round 2 Submission has two components:

  • A completed Social Business Model Canvas with descriptive questions answered.
  • A 2-minute Video explaining the social innovation.

Additional Resources:

Round 3 Submission Requirements:

Up to two finalist teams from each participating college/university can advance to the global final. Pitch decks are due one week before the final pitch in June 2019. Student finalists can pitch in person in San Diego, California, USA, or virtually over the internet.  Finalists must also demonstrate well-defined next steps, a realistic implementation plan, and their team’s commitment to implementing the venture.

Round 3 Submission has three components:

  1. Long Pitch: 10-minute pitch, delivered (virtually on in-person) to a panel of judges by at least one member of the finalist team.
  2. Fast Pitch: 90-second pitch, delivered on the main stage by the shortlisted finalist teams prior to the awards announcement.
  3. An accompanying Pitch Deck: Only for the 10-minute pitch, no slides used/needed for the 90-second pitch.

Additional Resources:

1 This methodology was originally developed as part of Map the System, a challenge run by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, in partnership with educational institutions across the world. For more information visit

Round 1 Submission Examples:

Round 1 of the Fowler GSIC requires students to analyze the problem that they are trying to solve and map the current problem and solution landscapes prior to proposing a solution.1

Click here to see examples of Executive Summaries from Round 1. 

Executive Summary Example 1: Refugees Illuminated

Executive Summary Example 2: Catolica Lisbon

Executive Summary Example 3: Transgender Wellness Initiative

Click here to see examples of Infographics from Round 1. 

Infographic Example 1: Zemya

Infographic Example 2: Sonder

Infographic Example 3: Play to Stay

Round 2 Submission Examples: 

Round 2 of the Fowler GSIC requires students to propose a solution to their problem. Using the Social Business Model Canvas, students will create a roadmap to outline the steps they will take to turn their idea into a viable solution. 

Click here to see examples of roadmaps from Round 2. 

Roadmap Example 1: Refugees Illuminated

Roadmap Example 2: MotMot Coffee

Roadmap Example 3: Baja Urban

Click here to see examples of videos from Round 2. 

Video Example 1: Water Sensei

Video Example 2: Motmot Coffee

Video Example 3: Refugees Illuminated

Round 3 Pitches: 

2018 Global Social Innovation Challenge Final

1“Mapping the system” as a first step for social entrepreneurship began as part of the “Map the System” hosted by the Skoll Center for Social Entrepreneurship at the Said Business School at the University of Oxford (

1. Why the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge (GSIC)?

People around the world increasingly view themselves as global citizens and favor companies that are socially and ecologically conscious. As the world becomes more interconnected, it is vital to bring these conscious citizens of the world together to solve the most pressing and chronic problems faced by communities around the world. The Fowler GSIC is designed to be such a platform through which we can inspire, learn from, and join forces with one another to help make this world a better place. Participation in the Fowler GSIC gives the students a hands-on opportunity to closely examine a global societal or environmental issue that impacts the lives of many, and think about the ways in which private, public and social sectors can collectively implement a solution that is impactful, sustainable, and scalable around the world. Along the way, students acquire necessary tools, receive mentoring, and possibly funding, to help them implement their social venture.

Ultimately, Fowler GSIC serves the society by equipping tomorrow’s citizens with the awareness, empathy, and understanding of sustainable development challenges, and by enabling them with the necessary knowledge and skills to develop practical yet impactful solutions that can positively shift the behavior of complex societal systems. Even if the participants do not implement their proposed social venture after taking part in the challenge, the learning experience makes them a much more socially and environmentally conscious decision maker regardless of the sector they end up working in after their graduation.

2. How does the Center for Peace and Commerce define Social Innovation?

Social Innovation comprises of a novel solution to a social/environmental problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals.1

Social Innovation can take many shapes while creating a positive impact on the 5 Ps– Planet, People, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership.

See some of the ways social innovators are changing work in the 21st century.

1 PHILLS JR, J. A., DEIGLMEIER, K. & MILLER, D. T. 2008. Rediscovering Social Innovation. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 6, 34-43.

3. What are the requirements for students’ topic selection?

Students get to choose an issue to address but are asked to align their efforts to one (or more) of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) put forward by the UN.

4. What are the prizes?

Seed funding totaling $50,000 and a host of in-kind prizes will be awarded following the Fowler GSIC final in June 2020 at the University of San Diego. In addition, your institution may offer its own set of prizes and other resources to participants/ semi-finalists/finalists.

5. Who is eligible to participate?

The Fowler GSIC is open to all degree and diploma-granting postsecondary education institutions such as universities/colleges located anywhere in the world that register for Fowler GSIC participation by November 30, 2019.

Each participating institution will receive full support from us to run the first two (of the three) stages of the challenge on their own campus, and will be able to nominate up to two finalist teams to participate in the third stage (the global final) that CPC will host in San Diego, California in June 2020. Institutions will align their local challenge branding with the Fowler GSIC by using the resources provided by the Center for Peace and Commerce (CPC) at the University of San Diego.

Any current student (as of December 2019) of a participating institution can participate in the Fowler GSIC individually or as part of a team (with a maximum of five members per team). At least one team member must be a current undergraduate / postgraduate/ doctoral student as of at any of the participating institutions. The rest of the team members can be from any walk of life (i.e. belong to the same institute OR another participating institute or another non-participating institute, or not be a student at all)!

6. What are the team size requirements?

  • Minimum team size is 1 (i.e. a student can participate as an individual).
  • Maximum team size is 5.
  • If a venture team has more than five members, the team will need to select a subset of up to five members that can represent the rest of the team in the GSIC, and obtain a written consent before the deadline for round 1 submission from those venture team members that are left out of the GSIC team.
7. How about teams made up of members from multiple participating institutions?

Teams made up of members from multiple participating institutions are absolutely welcome!

Each participating institution gets to nominate up to two teams to the global final. Therefore, if a team has members from more than one participating institution, the team must secure the nomination from one of these institutions for the global final. In addition, one of the team members must be a current student (as of December 2019) of the nominating institution.

8. What material and guidance will my college/university receive from the CPC?

CPC will provide the following to each participating institution:

  • Support for promoting the challenge on your campus:
    • An array of cobrand-able materials to promote the Fowler GSIC on your campus, including flyers, mass emails, classroom presentations, social media posts, etc.
  • Support for running the challenge on your campus:
    • An online platform to manage round 1, round 2, and round 3 submissions.
    • Guidance for recruiting judges for round 1 and round 2 submissions for your institution, briefing packs for the judges for their onboarding & training, and detailed judging criteria for the judges to use while judging.
    • Examples of outstanding submissions from prior years for each round.
  • Support for guiding student team efforts through seminars and workshops, coaching, and mentoring:
    • A recommended timeline and sample content to guide the design and delivery of suggested workshops and seminars at each participating institution.
    • Video recordings of our workshops and seminars/webinars shared with all of the participating institutions. Each institution can make these videos available to their students or simply use them to guide the design and delivery of similar workshops and seminars for their own teams.
    • Guidance for recruiting speakers, coaches, and mentors for workshops and seminars, and for one-on-one mentoring and coaching throughout the year.
    • A curated list of additional resources that the student teams can explore on their own.
  • Participation in the global final in San Diego, California, U.S.A. during June 2020:
    • Up to two finalist student teams (and a faculty/staff/administrator chaperone) nominated by the university / enrolling unit can represent their institution at the global final either in-person or virtually.
    • Participating institutes and their nominated finalist teams can also invite others to be in the audience (at their own expense) at the global final.
    • Lunch and dinner for both days will be included in the program for the finalist team/s and their chaperones. Participating institutes will be responsible for the cost of their team/s’ travel expenses (such as visa costs, air tickets and local transportation, hotel, other meals, etc.).
9. What is the cost to participate?

The cost to participate is US$3,000 per university/per enrolling unit at a university.

  • A limited number of partial registration fee grants are available to small universities and/or universities located in emerging economies. Please indicate your interest in applying for this grant when you register for participation in the challenge.

The registration fee covers the following:

  • Support for promoting the challenge on your campus through an array of cobrand-able materials.
  • Support for running the challenge on your campus through access to an online platform.
  • Support for guiding student team efforts through toolkits, facilitation guides, and videos of eight Idea Labs (hands-on workshops for students participating in the Fowler GSIC).
  • Participation in the global final during June 2020 in San Diego, California, U.S.A. for the two finalist student teams and a faculty/staff/administrator chaperone nominated by the university/enrolling unit.

Please note that the registration fee does not include travel costs (such as visas, airfare, hotels, local transportation, meals, etc.) for the students and chaperones participating in the global final in June 2020. Participating institutions may elect to fully or partially fund the travel costs for their finalist teams, require the teams to fully or partially fundraise to meet the travel costs, or elect to participate and pitch virtually at the final event.

10. Should we sign up as an individual college or as an entire university?

Each participating institution gets to nominate up to two teams to the global final. If you sign up as a university, you get to nominate two teams from the entire university. If you sign up as an individual college, your college gets to nominate two teams just from your college. If multiple colleges from the same university sign up individually, each of those colleges will get to nominate up to two teams per college.


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