University of San Diego Convenes and Invests in Global Social Entrepreneurs

University of San Diego Convenes and Invests in Global Social Entrepreneurs

The Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge

The University of San Diego (USD) is set to host the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge (FGSIC), an international competition, which, this year, has been designated a World Design Capital 2024 Legacy Program.

World Design Capital 2024 is a binational program that showcases the San Diego-Tijuana region as a global hub for design, innovation, arts, and culture. This weekend, more than 45 student teams from colleges and universities around the world will converge on USD’s campus for the FGSIC, where they’ll pitch regional innovation leaders, serving as judges, on their innovative business ventures, with the chance to win part of $100,000 in funding and in-kind services. Over multiple rounds, students will present their ideas to business leaders, including the competition’s namesake and visionary San Diego philanthropist, Ron Fowler, before the top eight finalists present in front of a live audience in the Kroc Institute of Peace and Justice Theatre on Saturday, May 4.

These are real businesses vying for real funding, but their mission goes beyond profit. Each team is tasked with coming up with ideas that address social and environmental challenges, and they’re guided by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Those values are at the heart of USD’s mission as a Ladauto Si’ university – geared toward environmental justice and caring for our common home – and they also align closely with the principles of World Design Capital 2024. 

USD has two student teams competing in the challenge, both aimed at providing underserved groups with more work opportunities:

  • Buni.Ai - A business using the power of artificial intelligence to connect tech companies with skilled workers in Africa. Buni.Ai hopes its venture will boost economic opportunities among women and young workers, in particular, in developing countries.
  • JuniorJobHunt - A venture aimed at providing more flexible work options for young people in the U.S. who are looking to balance their academics and extracurriculars with a desire to enter the workforce. Their business provides young workers with a streamlined platform connecting them to gig-economy jobs.

Ideas like these, businesses with a focus on social impact, reflect a growing trend among companies and young entrepreneurs in what’s described as a “purpose-driven economy,” said Andrew Biros, EdD, who’s organizing the FGSIC.

“We will not have the social and environmental innovations our society desperately needs, unless we invest in social innovators,” Biros said. “USD has been a trailblazer towards this aim, with a cross-campus ethos of innovation and entrepreneurship where ideas and challenges are explored and discussed openly among a vibrant intellectual community. The FGSIC is a fundamental example of how higher education institutions can collaborate and catalyze the solutions our world deserves.”

The Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge is organized in partnership between the University of San Diego and The University of St. Thomas. It started in 2011 with only USD students and expanded into a global pitch contest in 2018. Since 2011, the FGSIC has connected more than 3,000 students from around the world. To date, more than $700,000 has been distributed to seed the most innovative and promising global ventures.

About the University of San Diego

Strengthened by the Catholic intellectual tradition, we confront humanity’s challenges by fostering peace, working for justice and leading with love. With more than 8,000 students from 75 countries and 44 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. USD’s eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the Knauss 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. In 2021, USD was named a “Laudato Si’ University” by the Vatican with a seven-year commitment to address humanity’s urgent challenges by working together to take care of our common home.


Steven Covella
(619) 260-7806