President’s Challenge Finalists Announced

The social entrepreneurship contest’s winner will be revealed next month.

Finalists in the President’s Challenge for social entrepreneurship have been selected, the University announced today. The teams’ goals range from creating self-sustaining water filters in Uganda to using silk to stabilize vaccines. President Drew Faust announced the challenge in February, asking teams to submit social entrepreneurship proposals that deal with five major international issues: clear air, global health, empowering education, clean water, and personal health.

The 10 finalist teams, selected from a pool of more than 170, will each receive a $5,000 grant, dedicated space in the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-Lab), and mentoring from experts as they develop their strategies in the coming weeks. Sometime before Commencement, one grand-prize winner and up to three runners-up will be chosen; those four teams will share an additional $100,000, as well as dedicated space in the i-Lab and access to expert resources through August 2012.

“At the i-Lab, we help students bring all kinds of projects forward to the world, but are especially excited by students in the President’s Challenge creating measurable impact on some of the biggest social problems around them,” said i-Lab director Gordon Jones.

University provost Alan Garber, who organized the judging panel along with D'Arbeloff-MBA Class of 1955 professor of business administration William Sahlman, noted in a press release the large and competitive field of teams who applied, and said the program was off to a “great start.…The proposals are ambitious and have the potential to make a real difference in the world. It’s gratifying,” Garber added, “to see how the students develop their ideas at the i-Lab. We expect that they will inspire others to bring their own curiosity, resourcefulness, commitment, and creativity to the i-Lab as well.”

The 10 finalist teams, each made up of three to six members, include:

In the clean-water category:

  • Team SPOUTS of Water would create a self-sustaining ceramic water-filter factory in Uganda.
  • Team Slum Sanitation Solutions would place toilet systems in slums and monetize the systems by using biodigesters to create fuel and fertilizer from waste.

In the personal health category:

  • Team Balanced Kitchen proposes a casual-restaurant concept that offers great-tasting and nutritionally balanced food at competitive prices through interactive menus based on the latest health research.
  • Team ScentShare plans to harness and capitalize on the power of scent by using odorants on small chips as a virtual placebo to improve personal well-being and to reduce appetite and increase satiety in users.

In the empowered-education category:

  • Team School Yourself proposes bringing books alive for a new generation of students accustomed to interactive games by creating immersive and interactive electronic textbooks in math and science for high-school and college students.
  • Team will enable better peer collaboration on schoolwork, using a nonmonetary incentive scheme and the development of a suite of learning and teaching applications.

In the global-health category:

  • Team Revolving Fund Pharmacy proposes tackling issues involving delivery of life-saving medications by creating a supply-chain model for government health facilities in Kenya.
  • Team Vaxess proposes using silk to stabilize vaccines—eliminating the need for cold-chain transport—which would lower distribution costs and get more vaccines to remote areas and developing countries, where they are needed most.

In the clean-air category:

  • Team Zoom hopes to bring the car-sharing business model to Indian cities, providing vehicle availability to millions while removing excess vehicles from the road and reducing miles driven.
  • Team Essmart proposes bridging the gap between producers of essential technology and global consumers through proposed distribution plans.


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