USD Social Innovation Challenge


Photo courtesy of Diego Luna Social Innovation Challenge posters are all over campus increasing awarness.

Photo courtesy of Diego Luna
Social Innovation Challenge posters are all over campus increasing awareness.

The University of San Diego gives students many opportunities to raise capital. In fact, through the Center for Peace and Commerce, the Social Innovation Challenge has been one of the more predominant competitions. The Social Innovation Challenge is scheduled to be held throughout the upcoming months. While the deadline to enter this challenge has already passed, students and faculty now have the opportunity to witness the challenge unfold as the contestants compete for funding for their proposed projects.

Both individual and group competitors are accepted into the competition. To enter the challenge, students must come up with an important and relevant environment, academic, social, or related issue to focus on, and formulate a change or potential solution to the issue that they choose. Students proposed projects may consist of either an idea or the actual formation of a company or a non-profit organization. If they win the challenge, contestants receive funding from a sponsoring company or organization, such as the Moxie Foundation, which has been sponsoring this competition for the last two years.

This year, there are also benefits awarded to certain participants, based off of two separate motivating tracks. First, contestants that propose to use wireless or mobile technology as a part of their innovation project will receive $5,000 as part of the Mobile Technology Track. Women that enter the competition can also be awarded up to $10,000, as a part of the Women Innovators Track.

The Social Innovation Challenge consists of three rounds as well as a final awards ceremony on April 29th in which the winner(s) will be decided and announced. In the first round, contestants pitch their ideas and answer questions about their proposed projects. Contestants who make it to the second round must present a more comprehensive and detailed plan for how to implement their project, as well as compose a video highlighting their project. The contestants that are chosen to continue to the third round of the challenge are then confined to a six-minute presentation of their project in front of the competition’s main judges, and from there, the remaining finalists attend the awards ceremony and await the announcement of the winners of the challenge.

The intensive process of the challenge may seem overwhelming. However, in addition to providing funding, it also provides real-world experience to all of the challenge’s contestants, in having them learn to effectively pitch and present their ideas as they would to any venture capitalists, investors, or even shareholders in the actual business world.

In past years, winners of this challenge have started incredibly successful organizations and companies that address relevant issues, such as the Community Allies for Psychological Empowerment (CAPE), an organization that offers mental health care to those with financial instability in San Diego, and the GodFreds Foundation, which provides affordable schooling in various small villages to children in Ghana.

Senior Kay Bayles sees the many benefits the competition has for competing students.

“This challenge gives students the opportunity to get their hands on work in a real life work environment, giving the them the opportunity to practice pitching ideas to a panel and having to go through the process of trying to receive funding if they are successful,” Bayles said. “This competition is a great idea as it gives the student an opportunity to learn from outside of the classroom in a more formal setting and also gives them the chance to start their very own organization, which could end up becoming their actual career.”

Junior Lucy Meske also sees the value for students that compete in this challenge.

“I think that the Social Innovation Challenge is an awesome competition!” Meske said. “It gives students a chance to creatively make a difference and give back to the community. It also provides students with an amazing opportunity to put their hard work into building blocks for their future career.”

Senor Kyle Fernando also shared his thoughts on the opportunities provided to students by the challenge.

“The Social Innovation Challenge is an excellent opportunity for students to explore the idea of social entrepreneurship, and potentially get funding for a groundbreaking idea,” Fernando said. “It really encourages young people to explore ventures outside of the traditional business realm, and to focus on bringing change to the communities that need it the most. Not only does it teach great lifelong values to the students involved, but it also help those who are less fortunate in the process.   

If students are interested in competing in the challenge during their time at USD, this is a great opportunity to learn from the current contestants as they are announced, to see how to strategize and pitch their ideas impactfully and successfully in order to win the competition. In witnessing the Social Innovation Challenge from the start, students can get a better idea of whether they think they should enter the competition next year.