9 Awardees Carving Sustainable Pathways to Social Progress
Student-led enterprises unearth solutions to uproot inequality in The Rockefeller Foundation-Acumen Student Social Innovation Challenge virtual track.
June 20, 2020
The global pandemic has spotlighted the injustices upheld by systems that serve few, and exclude many. For too long, too many have responded to the symptoms of injustice without identifying and fighting to dismantle the true causes. An exceptional cohort of social entrepreneurs are embracing the difficult and fostering tenacious ideas for innovation. They started by enrolling in The Rockefeller Foundation-Acumen Student Social Innovation Challenge to build a business plan for a more sustainable future. We are overjoyed to congratulate 9 student-led teams with up to $20,000 in seed funding from The Rockefeller Foundation to turn their ideas into operating enterprises. These visionaries are redesigning community healthcare models and mending broken pathways between education and employment. They are asking us all to reconsider how we welcome refugees into our communities and fighting for minorities to become active participants in global markets. Their startups stretch to touch the margins of society, working with populations in 5 different world regions across 3 major sectors in a diverse set of disciplines.
Drawing from decades of experience in advancing frontiers in a variety of social impact sectors, The Rockefeller Foundation and Acumen Academy joined forces to equip students with the educational resources and professional guidance to learn and lead. This challenge began in September 2019, through a partnership with four U.S. universities hosting their own on-campus innovation competitions. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, these young leaders faced challenges that threatened to derail their progress and limit their access to the materials needed to chart their startup’s future. They emerged unwavered and more emboldened than ever to build an informed and empathetic world.
Inspired by our continuing mission to be the world’s school for social change, we launched a virtual chapter of the challenge to engage students from across the globe, welcoming a diverse pool of 4,280 course takers spanning countries including: Nigeria, Australia, Pakistan, and Tanzania. These students first enrolled in Acumen Academy’s Lean Startup for Social Impact course designed specifically for social entrepreneurs and enterprises who need to implement more rapid, lightweight methods of understanding customer needs and experimenting with product iterations. Upon completion, 19 student-led teams qualified to compete in phase two of the program. The 9 Accelerator awardees received grant funding to pilot their products, expand their teams, and scale their impact.
"This unique moment of crisis makes it ever more important to support fresh ideas that promote positive social change. The winners surfaced though this competition have put forward bold approaches that address inequality around the world. The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to support this amazing group and looks forward to our continued partnership with Acumen Academy to promote the next generation of social entrepreneurs, said Hunter Goldman, Director of Innovation at the Rockefeller Foundation.
Here’s a first glimpse in a series of articles to be published featuring virtual awardees carving distinct paths to social progress:
Our goal is to equip and accompany local leaders who already receive requests for mental health support in their work of activism or service, leveraging their existing capacity to validate, grow, and sustain their programs.
Co-Founder and Director of Mental Health, Brio
There was a big contrast between how TB was being handled in the Americas versus Africa and India. It wasn’t like they didn’t solve the problem of TB diagnosis, the problem actually is that it was not solved for people who actually needed it at a certain price point or accessibility.
Digvijay Singh, Co-Founder, Drizzle
We’ve seen with COVID-19 that people feel overwhelmed when trying to look for trustworthy, accurate, timely information. We want to make that simpler and easier for everyday people so they don't have to feel that burden or anxiety when they're trying to find the right health information.
Dr. Reza Jarral, Co-Founder, Meora
The Brand Custodians
We believe that our education system needs to change in many ways, one of which is that the system doesn't train students to develop skills that employers want. By training our students using a curriculum that is tailored to these entrepreneurs’ business needs, we can make a significant social and business impact.
Co-Founder, The Brand Custodians
When the world moved from home landline phones to mobile phones, emerging markets moved straight to mobile phones. With Tang, the Philippines' unbanked population can move straight to digital banking and e-money, instead of first needing a checking account from a physical bank branch.
Rebecca Kersch, Founder & CEO, Tang