March 20, 2017
A team of three students from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy has won the 2017 Social Impact Challenge. The team's innovative and research-driven proposal addressed entrepreneurial development through downtown training and significant neighborhood outreach for the city of Flint.
Innovation to Impact, consisting of master's students Emily Futcher, Martha Fedorowitz and Dean-Mark Clemente, took the $2,500 cash prize in the multi-campus competition sponsored by the University of Michigan Center for Social Impact, in partnership with the UM-Flint Outreach Office.
The winning entry and all team proposals will be considered as Skypoint Ventures' Ferris Wheel Innovation Hub and UM-Flint's [IN] On the Road look to bring entrepreneurship training programs to Flint neighborhoods.
"The collaboration between the Center for Social Impact and University Outreach at UM-Flint has been powerful," said Paula Nas, interim director of UM-Flint University Outreach, noting the partnership between the university's Ann Arbor and Flint campuses.
"Not only did our students have the experience of connecting with students from the Ann Arbor campus, but the Flint community benefited from the creative new ideas and approaches that the student teams envisioned to support our local entrepreneurs and small business owners. We are optimistic that we will be able to continue this partnership in the future."
The challenge began in January with approximately 110 interested students from both campuses. Of those, 18 teams with 70 students registered proposals for the competition, and after the first round of judging in February, four team finalists were selected to advance.
Additional awards went to the following teams:
• A.K.A.K.A. — Second Prize ($1,000), Co-Campus Prize ($250), Arts Focus Prize ($250). Members: Kate Blessing, Aisha Changezi, Ashlyee Freeman, Ashrita Shetty, Karen Cuenca
• Social Enrichment Whizzes — Third Prize ($500). Members: Nara Subramanian, Ammar Muhammad, Megan Graham, Jorge Sandoval, Jon Nas.
• Diversiteam - Fourth Prize ($250). Members, Corinne Wong, Sheila Xu, Alexandria Swift, Zijia Cai, Galaad Preau.
Student teams all spent more than a month learning about economic and social issues on the ground in Flint, visiting with Flint stakeholders, attending a site visit and tour, and poring over economic and entrepreneurship data. In the finals, various ideas included entrepreneurship mentors, entrepreneur fairs, worker spaces for artists, and further collaboration between U-M's campuses.
"By participating in the Social Impact Challenge, our team was able to apply the critical thinking skills we learn in the classroom to a real-world challenge. We strongly valued the opportunity to utilize the amazing work already being developed by the city of Flint, UM-Flint, and the Ferris Hub to develop creative solutions in support of their goals," said winning team member Fedorowicz.
Judges for the Social Impact Challenge, who are deeply embedded in Flint's entrepreneurship revival, are: Amy Gresock, assistant professor in the UM-Flint School of Management; Jessica Judson, program coordinator of Corporate Social Responsibility for Diplomat Pharmacy; Kevin Schronce, planner III in Flint Planning and Zoning Office; and Raquel Thueme, vice president of programs for the Ruth Mott Foundation.
Work on the Social Impact Challenge winners' proposal may continue with further projects and a possible summer internship offered through the Center for Social Impact. Such plans are in line with the center's purpose to provide action-based programs that offer student's multidisciplinary and cross-sector opportunities to deliver social impact.
"We believe the best way to learn about delivering meaningful social impact is to actually work on the ground with community leaders on projects that have a lasting impact," said Matt Kelterborn, Center for Social Impact program director. "Our students are engaged across sectors and disciplines on real challenges, and we look forward to assisting our new Flint partners in this next stage."