Social Innovation Solution Competition

The Social Innovation Solution Competition (SISC) offers BYU students from various disciplines the opportunity to come together and apply their skills to help solve real-time issues for an organization that has partnered with the Ballard Center.

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What is the Social Innovation Solution Competition?

A solution competition is an event, much like a case competition, in which teams of three to five students have ten days to analyze and present a solution to a social entrepreneurship organization’s real-world challenge. Solutions will be judged by a knowledgeable panel; winning teams are awarded cash prizes.

FAQs

The Problem

According to the International Rice Research Institute, rice is a staple food of over 3.5 billion people and 91 percent of all rice is grown and consumed in Asia. Every four tons of rice grain that is produced is accompanied by six tons of straw, totaling about 550 million tons each year. Unlike rice husks, which are often converted into fuel, rice straw is typically seen as useless and is both costly and time-consuming to gather up and remove. All over the world, farmers often resort to burning the straw, which pollutes the air and leads to a host of environmental and health issues for the local communities. This year SISC has partnered with Fargreen, a social venture in Vietnam with the “purpose of building prosperous and sustainable farming communities in rural Vietnam and around the world where no such environmentally damaging practices like open burning of straw exist, and no farmer is left behind in poverty for choosing to stay with their land.”

Fargreen has established partnerships with a group of small-scale farmers who collect the rice straw after harvesting and produce premium, organic mushroom products that are then sold to Fargreen’s customer network.

About the Founder

Trang Tran is the CEO and founder of Fargreen. In just a few short years, she has seen much success. Echoing Green, a social innovation fund, identifies transformational leaders around the world for fellowship opportunities that include mentorship, networking, and seed-funding. In 2014, Trang was nominated as an Echoing Green Fellow. In 2015, she was chosen as the first TED fellow from Vietnam.  

At kickoff night on Monday, 19 March at 7:00 p.m., you will be provided with a “challenge document” that outlines:

  • Fargreen’s history – including the founder’s vision, initial growth in Hanoi and the Thai Binh province, and plans for expansion
  • Fargreen’s culture
  • Reasons for varying levels of success
  • Investors’ interest in Fargreen
  • Specific organizational challenges Fargreen currently faces

Hard copies will be given to each team present and email copies will be sent to all participants. The challenge document will be about ten to fifteen pages, including appendices. In teams of 3-5 students, participants will perform research on the challenge to identify potential solutions. Teams will create a presentation of their recommendations and pitch them to a panel of three knowledgeable judges. 

The document is written by the directors of the solutions competition who traveled to the organization to gather data and build a comprehensive summary of the organization, its history, and the issue to be addressed in the competition. This allowed the directors to become content experts on the issue so they can serve as mentors to you and your team throughout the competition.

Registration: Full teams (between 3-5 members) can register here beginning Friday, 2 February. Complete teams must be registered no later than Saturday, 17 March at 11:59 p.m. This ensures that there will be enough food at the kickoff which will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 19, where teams can ask final questions and start collaborating. 

Round 1: Teams will have until Tuesday, 27 March, at 11:59 p.m. to submit a copy of their presentation (Powerpoint, Prezi, etc.).  All teams will then be assigned to a fifteen-minute slot between 4-9 p.m. on Thursday, 29 March to present their live pitch to a panel of judges. Each presentation should be ten minutes or less, allowing for five minutes of Q&A. The three teams with the highest scores on the judging rubrics, will be announced as finalists later that evening. 

Round 2 (finals): On Friday, 30 March, each of the three finalist teams will present their solution to CEO Trang Tran from Fargreen and other social entrepreneur judges for ten minutes and answer questions from the judges for five minutes. This event will be open to all of campus and all SISC participants are encouraged to attend. The winning teams and any other SISC participants are welcome to a 30-minute Q&A session with Trang Tran to better understand the Fargreen business model as well as her personal path as a social entrepreneur. 

We’re happy to connect you with other people who are interested in participating but don’t have a team. Fill out your information here to indicate you are searching for teammates. This document will list the contact information for other students who are also looking for a team. 

Register here.

Benefits:

  • You’ll learn to look at the world differently by developing solutions for complex challenges.
  • You’ll work with a team of BYU students whose ideas will spur and improve your own.
  • Whether or not a finalist, your ideas will be passed on to the founder for consideration and implementation.
  • Whether or not a finalist, you are invited to participate in a 30-minute Q&A session with CEO Trang Tran.
  • You’ll be able to present your ideas to several qualified judges in person and receive personalized feedback.

Prizes:

  • Finalists will be invited to lunch at the Skyroom restaurant with CEO Trang Tran and guest judges directly after the final competition on Friday, 30 March.
  • The three finalist teams will be awarded a share of $9,000 in prize money.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us at sisc@byu.edu. Seriously, we’re interested in your concerns or questions and want to do our best in resolving them in a timely manner.

Past Competitions

The Problem

Grappling with homelessness isn’t a position most of us expect to find ourselves in. But for thousands of Americans, it’s their reality and is found to some degree in virtually every community any of us will ever live in. This year, SISC is partnering with an innovative organization in San Francisco to provide BYU students with the opportunity to learn deeply and present impactful solutions while helping to shatter stereotypes and change the conversation around those experiencing homelessness. 

Homelessness is a very complex social problem calling for involvement from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. To work on homelessness in a broad sense can be overwhelming and bring accusation of a lack of focus and impact that can’t be measured. To slice up homelessness and work on a specific piece of the puzzle is much more quantifiable but can be difficult to scale up–considering how unique the experience of homelessness can look from place to place and person to person.

Lava Mae is an organization formed in 2013 with the specific intent to serve in the “emergency service” slice of work within homelessness by bringing mobile hygiene to the streets of San Francisco. To do this, founder Doniece Sandoval spearheaded the effort to acquire recently retired city buses and repurpose them into shower and toilet stalls.

The showers are critical, and the dignity that they help restore builds resilience for those experiencing homelessness. Four years later, Lava Mae has been asked by over 1,500 communities for their help in bringing the same service to their communities. The need is clear, but Lava Mae is being very intentional about how to grow in ways that make it easier for partners to implement quickly, overcome financial barriers, and run operations in a way that is customized to succeed in the communities that adopt the model.

The Competition

This was the very first domestic Social Innovation Solution Competition that BYU has ever hosted. Twenty-three teams and over one hundred students from a variety of disciplines competed to come up with the most feasible and innovative solution for Lava Mae. Due to the great success of this first domestic competition, it will continue annually every fall semester. 

The Problem

Social entrepreneur and Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree Nathanael Molle founded an organization named SINGA with a vision of helping refugees in Paris integrate into the local community by connecting them with French citizens who share similar interests. He set up one-on-one meetings between a handful of refugees and Parisians and found that these regular meetings helped refugees develop a network and learn the language. All of the refugees in this initial group gained confidence, developed friendships, and found jobs to match their skill set.

SINGA has since grown in Paris to 20,000 active volunteers. SINGA now hosts and facilitates advertising for events that connect local citizens and refugees in addition to connecting refugees with housing via hosts who have similar personal interests and professional ambitions. Because SINGA was so successful in Paris, it expanded to other French cities and has launched in five other countries with different programs suited to the most impactful results in each.

The Competition

Over one hundred and fifty students from over thirty different majors across campus came together to learn about SINGA and apply their skills to solve this problem. This was by far the largest Social Innovation Solutions Competition BYU has ever hosted.

The Problem

Fairtrasa is a social enterprise that builds honest, fair and rewarding connections between the consumer and the farmer, based on a shared commitment to high-quality and nutritious food. In partnership with Fairtrasa, subsistence farmers lift themselves out of poverty and grow to be successful agro-entrepreneurs. However, in view of the massive challenge to lift millions of small-scale farmers out of poverty, Fairtrasa needs to take a fresh look at its scaling strategy in order to accelerate its expansion process both on the supply and the sales side.

The Competition

About eighty students from thirty different majors across campus came together to learn about Fairtrasa and apply their skills to solve this problem. Undergraduate students competed alongside graduate students in the semifinal round, which included ideas ranging from creating a spotlight metrics program, generating joint ventures with banks, and taking part of government anti-cocaine programs to give a sustainable alternative to farmers.

The Problem

The 2015 case competition featured Skoll Foundation awardee, Fundación Paraguaya. Since 1985 this organization has grown to include a highly successful microfinance program, a self-sustaining agricultural school, and many other programs to support its clients. In spite of establishing a strong track record for increasing incomes and having a 98 percent repayment rate on all microloans, people were not getting out of poverty.

In order to make getting out of poverty more manageable and measurable, Fundación Paraguaya created Poverty Stoplight. This program is both a metric and a methodology, breaking poverty down into fifty indicators that clients self-assess as being red, yellow, or green. Now that the organization had a way to track and define poverty, it needed to figure out how to motivate people to take action and begin to transition their indicators to green. 

The Competition

About one hundred students from twelve different majors came together to learn about Fundación Paraguaya and apply their skill set to this problem. Undergraduate students competed alongside graduate students in the semifinal round, which included ideas ranging from bike rental and lottery programs to a poverty stoplight Olympic program that gamified the process to leverage the positive social capital and competitive spirit of the people.