Grassroots Social Innovations Abound Through UNH Social Venture Innovation Challenge
For the past five years, Timberland has been a proud sponsor of the University of New Hampshire’s Social Venture Innovation Challenge (SVIC), an innovative competition for students and community members to share sustainable, business-oriented solutions to pressing social and environmental challenges. Now in its sixth year, the SVIC inspires a large and diverse group of thought leaders to develop innovative, solution-orientated thinking and provides a forum to promote their ideas. As a purpose-led brand, Timberland sponsors the SVIC to support the next generation of responsible businesses being developed right in our own back yard.
The Challenge has proven to be an effective incubator for aspiring community and student social entrepreneurs. Finalists in this year’s Community Track proposed ventures that spanned diverse issues including gender-inclusive clothing, a leadership center to address global challenges, emergency communications, and aquaculture to feed the state’s food insecure. Student Track finalist ideas included a program to address health disparities for the food insecure, a predictor of migrant crises, ways to increase the efficiency of small farms, leaf composting for college campuses, and programs to increase voter participation.
From a field of 95 entries, 16 finalist teams – eight in the student track and eight in the community track – were selected for the Final Round which included summary videos, live presentations, and quick-fire questions from panels of both private- and public-sector judges. Finalists competed for $27,500 in cash to further their idea, plus in-kind prizes worth an additional $22,500.
As a Community Track judge, I had the opportunity to hear these bright social entrepreneurs pitch their ideas, and I was especially delighted to see a group of high school students advance to the final round. They took 3rdplace for their idea/organization called Growing Hope, a 1:1 model that engages local school groups and community members to provide portable milk crate garden boxes to South Sudanese refugees in the Bidi Bidi camp to give refugees access to a sustainable source of protein-rich food. Their passion for how to drive tangible change for people in need was incredibly energizing and inspiring.
The 1stplace winner of the Community Track was an idea called The Hive, developed by two recent graduates of UNH. The Hive is an independent quick-deploy network that any Wi-Fi enabled device can access, providing users a means to communicate with emergency crews and family in times of natural disaster when conventional communication lines are disrupted. With one prototype already developed and tested, and insights from first responders across the country, the duo is poised to take their winnings from the competition to develop further prototypes and finalize their patent application.
While the competition is designed to be an “idea-stage” competition, I was excited to see that these winning ideas were already in action with clear plans and ability to scale. I wish Growing Hope and The Hive the best of luck as they work to make the world better, inspiring others to do the same along the way.
Check out the UNH website to see more about these great ideas, and the ideas submitted under the Student Track. https://www.unh.edu/social-innovation/svic/2018-finalists