Social Innovation Challenge
The 2010 Social Innovation Challenge was a high-impact, time-limited way to deploy the smarts and innovation of Utah’s entrepreneurs to the common and complex problems facing our nonprofits. It used financial and intellectual capital effectively and efficiently to create a profound change in the way Utah charities approach their work. The Challenge offered a new way of approaching public issues built on innovation, accountability, and impact. In short, it’s smart philanthropy.
Our model is available for free to anyone who would like to use it. Call the Foundation and we'll gladly send you the details.
Congratulations to the winning agencies!
- Head Start - represented by Erin Trenbeath-Murray (receiving flowers form our Board Chair Greg Warnock)
- Disability Law Center
- KUED Public Television
- Spy Hop Productions
- Utah Partners for Health
- Vivace - a program of the Utah Symphony/ Utah Opera
Entrepreneurs, whether in the business or nonprofit sector, are innovative and determined individuals driven to solve complex problems. The Community Foundation of Utah seeks to “engage the giving minds” of Utah’s entrepreneurial spirit in service to the common good through smart philanthropy. For example, it created the nation’s first “speed mentoring” event where 60 entrepreneurs shared their expertise with nonprofits. The day was an overwhelming success—and just the first of a series of initiatives we call Enlightened Entrepreneurs. The Social Innovation Challenge was the next step for Utah’s entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations to take calculated risks, gain new skills and networks, and demonstrate a new way to address social issues together.
The success of our public institutions is critical to Utah’s continued economic development. Nonprofit organizations, whether they take care of neighbors in need, safeguard our environment, educate our children, or feed our souls, make our communities stronger and more vibrant. Utah’s public charities are under severe stress. Giving is down by more than 50 percent, while demand for assistance has increased dramatically. Our public sector is hungry for new ways to achieve results. Entrepreneurs have a desire to help, but have limited time and want their efforts to have a measurable impact. Nonprofits need business skills, but cannot afford to hire expertise and need an intermediary to help use entrepreneur volunteers effectively.
The Social Innovation Challenge (SIC) is a high-impact, time-limited way to deploy the smarts and innovation of Utah’s entrepreneurs to the common and complex problems facing our nonprofits. It uses financial and intellectual capital effectively and efficiently to create a profound change in the way Utah charities approach their work. In addition, SIC offers a new way of approaching public issues built on innovation, accountability, and impact. In short, it’s smart philanthropy.
How does it work? Thirty nonprofits submitted one-page proposals describing a complex issue facing their organization and likely common to the sector as whole—for example, how to generate revenue, find a new approach to a long-standing social issue, market to millennials, or manage cash flow. Initial teams of mentors selected the 15 most promising proposals, and an advisory committee selected six finalists.
Six organizations with focuses in education, the arts, public broadcasting, and health and human services were given a project team of volunteer mentor-entrepreneurs, a small budget, and just three months to develop, implement, and reengineer the solution to their business problem. The mentors work in tandem with the nonprofit leadership to create tangible, innovative, and replicable plans. SIC is designed to meet the busy schedules of our mentors; their desire to work on a short- term, high-impact project; and the foundation’s desire to help nonprofits learn to innovate. The project teams are cross-disciplinary, building the professional networks and skills of the volunteers while doing good.
Graduate MBA students from the David Eccles School of Business and MPA (public administration) students from the Romney Institute at BYU coordinated the teams and evaluated both the individual projects and the challenge as a whole. Results will be published in a case study format for use in classrooms and nonprofits trainings in the future.
On December 7, the teams presented their results to 150 leaders from academia, foundations, venture capitalists, and the corporate and nonprofit sectors. The teams used the language of social entrepreneurship: new ideas generated, new efficiencies created, new markets reached, and the return on investment. An expert panel probed the teams and the audience chose a grand prize winner.
The issues and their solutions will have broad applicability to other charities. Our case studies will share the learning in Utah and beyond. In addition, the Community Foundation of Utah is fostering a new generation of philanthropic entrepreneurs that give of their intellectual capital for the common good. This is a first of its kind not just in Utah, but the nation. The teams have developed entrepreneurial solutions to “impossible” but common issues, increasing the creativity and innovation in six vital and diverse nonprofit organizations.