Student Entrepreneurs from Ireland, Ghana and Mexico Were Big Winners at University of San Diego’s Global Social Innovation Challenge

Photos available here.

SAN DIEGO, July 10, 2018 – College students from Ireland, Ghana, and Mexico were among the winners of this year’s University of San Diego Global Social Innovation Challenge pitch competition. Over 40 finalist teams from 12 countries spanning six continents pitched their social innovations at USD June 23 for a chance to win $50,000 in seed funding and generous in-kind prizes.

“Each of our finalists’ teams are innovators who presented, thoughtful, unique solutions to complex, global problems,” said Amitkumar Kakkad, PhD, director of USD’s Center for Peace and Commerce and faculty member at the School of Business. “The projects they presented exemplify the potential of channeling the entrepreneurial streak of students towards creating a more equitable, just, and sustainable world with better quality of life for all,” Kakkad added.

A team from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland are working on a wellness app, KeepAppy. The app helps individuals take control of their own mental health and physical wellbeing. The team walked away with $17,500 in seed funding. The young social entrepreneurs from Heritage Christian College in Ghana are working on an enterprise to convert human excreta into charcoal for cooking. They received a total of $16,500 in seed funding. Biogas del Hogar, a Mexican team from CETYS Universidad in Tijuana are working on a biodigester for organic household waste for homes in Mexico. They received $10,500 to further develop their enterprise. Other winners included Juntas from Peru, Sistema de Rescate from Mexico, and Bridge from the University of Kentucky. Student teams traveled from Australia, Ghana, Ireland, Morocco, Peru, Portugal, Mexico, and all across the United States to be part of the competition. Students from Egypt, Nepal, and India participated virtually.

The Global Social Innovation Challenge is a social venture pitch competition organized by the University of San Diego (USD) since 2011. The program asks participants to develop a nuanced understanding of an issue of their choice and identify gaps in the existing approaches. Then, they are asked to identify a potential solution that can address the gaps, has a measurable positive impact, and can be financially sustainable and scalable or replicable. Finally, students create a compelling value proposition, build a viable business plan, and pitch the venture to a panel of judges for seed funding and other resources.

Originally, the social venture pitch competition featured only USD student groups and their social innovation ideas. Over the years, it first expanded into a regional event welcoming participation from other universities in Southern California, and then into a bi-national event by expanding into Mexico, with participation from ten universities across both sides of the border in the 2017 competition. After seven years of spurring regional student-led social innovations, the Global Social Innovation Challenge now inspires student entrepreneurs across the globe to tackle the world’s most pressing issues.

The social venture ideation and pitching program is powered by the USD’s Center for Peace and Commerce, a partnership between the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies and the School of Business.

USD’s Global Social Innovation Challenge is made possible by generous funding and in-kind donations from several foundations, sponsors, and local leaders. Primary sponsors of the event include the Cappetta Family Foundation, the Moxie Foundation, the Price Family Foundation, the McNamara Purcell Foundation, the Capdevilla Gillespie Foundation, Qualcomm Ventures, Qualcomm Wireless Reach, the Pacific Western Bank, Ms. Annie Navarra, Mr. Mark V. Bowles. Mr. Mark Lefkowitz, and Ms. Liz Nutting.


University of San Diego’s Global Social Innovation Challenge is designed and hosted by the Center for Peace and Commerce – a joint partnership between the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies and the School of Business. It is a social venture pitch competition that recognizes, resources, and rewards student-led social ventures focused on sustainable change. It started in 2011 with only USD students, grew to a binational event in 2016 featuring student groups from the U.S. and Mexico, and expanded into a global pitch contest in 2018.

About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 9,000 students from 69 countries and 50 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. The university's eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD's Envisioning 2024 strategic plan capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.


Pamela Gray Payton
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