SAN DIEGO–Next month, student entrepreneurs will convene at University of San Diego (USD) to propose business solutions that address the world’s most pressing problems.
Student-led teams will compete to win $10,000 in seed funding to support their business ideas and the chance to represent USD in the world finals of the 2019 Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge held the following month. The goal of the two-part event – according to USD’s Center for Peace and Commerce, a partnership between the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies and the University of San Diego School of Business – is to shift the trajectories of the next generation of leaders to embrace business as a tool for social good.
On Friday, May 3, the USD Social Innovation Showcase will feature 12 semi-finalist USD student teams, competing to progress to the global event June 14-16. At the global pitching event in June, international finalist student teams from 25 other universities will compete along with USD finalist teams for more seed funding and other resources to turn their innovative ideas into sustainable realities. Focus areas include wireless technology impact, the diversity of female voices and leadership in sustainable business ventures, and a new focus area this year on the recycling innovations possible to reduce the hazardous effects of tire disposal.
“The Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge trains the next generation of world business leaders to make social and environmentally conscious decisions grounded on the principles of shaping a better world,” said Amitkumar Kakkad, PhD, director of USD’s Center for Peace and Commerce and faculty member at the University of San Diego School of Business. “By participating in the year-long challenge, these students have access to a wealth of support, ideas and mentorship to develop sustainable solutions to the world’s most challenging problems.”
The Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge 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 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 funding and other resources.
The social venture pitch competition started at USD in 2011, featuring only USD student groups and their business ideas. Over the years, it has grown to a collaboration with 25 other universities in 12 countries, which create and host their own locally based innovation challenges. Each participating university will send their two finalist teams to compete in this year’s global challenge in June in San Diego.
“We decided to convert human excrement into charcoal production because the majority of the population relies on charcoal for cooking,” said Evans Kwarkye, a winner of the 2018 Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge and co-founder of a student innovation from Heritage Christian College, Ghana. “Apart from the anticipation of being declared a winner, participating alone gives you that massive exposure. I would say that whoever gets the opportunity to be here, don’t come here and just focus on the prize money but the network that you can create with friends who come from all over the world.”
USD’s Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge is made possible by generous funding and in-kind donations from several foundations, sponsors and local leaders. Ron and Alexis Fowler pledged $2.5 million to the global challenge this year – creating a joint venture with the University of St. Thomas that will expand the competition’s reach and impact.
Other primary sponsors of the event include Annie Navarra, Andrew and Davida Huchel, Cal Recycle, the Cappetta Family Foundation, the Moxie Foundation, Pacific Western Bank, The Price Family Foundation, Qualcomm Ventures, and Qualcomm Wireless Reach.
Attendance at both the May 3 showcase and the final event June 15 is free. Guests can RSVP online for the May 3 event and RSVP online for the June 15 event athttp://www.sandiego.edu/cpc/gsic//.