If you follow the work of the United Way of the Greater Triangle, you probably have noticed a great deal about our Social Innovation Challenge recently. Though it’s been all over—especially on social media and its own website innovateunited.org—you may still be wondering, what is this Social Innovation Challenge and why is UWGT doing it?
The Social Innovation Challenge is part of our larger initiative focusing on childhood hunger. On any given night there are 100,000 hungry children in the Triangle—more than 95,000 students qualify for free and reduced lunch, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Child Nutrition Services Free and Reduced Student Data by Site: Public School Year-to-Date Data 2012-2013. Additionally, thousands more toddlers, children who are not yet school age, and homeless youths lack regular access to food. Twenty percent of children in Wake, Orange, Johnston, and Durham counties are food insecure—they do not know where their next meal is coming from.
We decided to mobilize the community around the issue of childhood hunger and invite everyone to work with us to help find solutions for this issue. Our goal for the Challenge was to get more people thinking about this—from social entrepreneurs and students to teachers and farmers at businesses and nonprofits in Durham, Johnston, Orange, and Wake counties—to innovate, develop, and scale high-impact ideas designed to address childhood hunger. We also wanted to engage the community in a new way–by asking for their help in developing the next innovation in solving this issue.
All of the entries had a chance to win the top award– $50,000 of funding from the United Way of the Greater Triangle and access to an entrepreneur support staff and network from our partner Bull City Forward. Awarding $50,000 is no small task—we wanted to make sure it was going to a truly innovative idea that will make a difference in our community. So all of our entries were judged on five criteria—social impact, break-through potential, feasibility, sustainability, and scalability—along with their plan for how to use the $50,000 funding award, if they were chosen.
Unsurprisingly, when we called, wonderful residents of our four counties answered. With a quick month and a half timeline for people to submit applications, we received 40 impressive completed applications from a variety of people looking at the problem of childhood hunger in many different ways.
Excited to hear more about the Social Innovation Challenge? Make sure to read the next blog post in the series about the Challenge detailing our first round of judging and the ideas moving to round two!