Three teams take home top Social Venture Challenge honors


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Winner of the in the Social Venture Innovation Challenge was Jit Banerjee, center, a master’s degree student in public policy at the University of New Hampshire. Also pictured are Eric Carlson, chief financial officer at Timberland, and Heather Harris, vice president of corporate communications at Kennebunk Savings. Carlson and Harris were final round judges.

Perry Smith Photography

A student who proposed a project to improve conditions for shrimp farmers in Bangladesh won the student track and two teams headed by recent University of New Hampshire graduates tied as the community track winners in the fourth annual New Hampshire Social Venture Innovation Challenge at UNH.

The winner of the student track, Jit Banjeree’s Aquinput, proposed an idea to provide shrimp farmers in Bangladesh with better inputs, standardization services and market access. Banerjee, a master’s student in public policy at UNH, received a cash prize of $5,000 and s Social entrepreneur membership and complimentary registration to the annual conference provided by New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility.

The second and third-place student winners were Biàn and the Great Bay, a team of UNH students looking to prevent nitrogen inputs into the Great Bay by installing urine-diverting toilets and converting the waste into fertilizer, and Project PLAY, a team of students looking to promote active youth by making sports equipment available to underprivileged children.

They received prizes of $3,000 and $2,000 respectively and a Social Entrepreneur membership and complimentary registration to the annual NH Businesses for Social Responsibility conference.

Innovation accelerator’

There was a tie for the winning community team.

DreamTech Water Solutions, a team of recent UNH graduates, with a plan to eliminate dangerous compounds from public drinking water, and Full Spectrum Broadband, led by Tom Giancola ‘15 from Salem will each receive a cash prize of $7,500, as well as $4,500 worth of legal services from Pierce Atwood, a leading New England law firm; partner level NHBSR membership; 12 months of membership in AlphaLoft, an organization dedicated to accelerating innovative start-up and early-stage companies; and one-year subscription to NH Business Review. Full Spectrum Broadband will also receive 100 hours of consulting donated by PixelMEDIA, a leading New Hampshire-based digital experience agency.

The third-place winner in the community track was uSafeUS, a mobile app that places resources and information related to campus sexual assault directly in the hands of victims and allies. The team received a cash prize of $2,500 as well as $4,500 worth of legal services from Pierce Atwood, 12 months of flex membership for co-working space provided by AlphaLoft, partner level NHBSR membership and a one-year subscription to NH Business Review. uSafeUS also received an additional $2,500 donated anonymously.

Designed to be an “innovation accelerator,” the Social Venture Innovation Challenge encourages participants to develop original proposals for sustainable, market-based solutions to some of society’s most pressing social and environmental challenges.

“We were thrilled that 199 individuals representing 78 teams of college students and community members were inspired to design entrepreneurial concepts to tackle major local and global challenges this year,” said Fiona Wilson, executive director of the Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise at UNH. “Their innovative ideas spanned energy efficiency, homelessness, oncology care, shrimp farming, waste reduction, renewable energy, anthropogenic nitrogen inputs, sexual assault, drinking water safety, mental health/suicide prevention, broadband access, urban parking, and opportunities for veterans. We know that effective solutions to society’s most insidious problems will increasingly need to come from collaboration -- across private and public sectors and across fields and disciplines – and this challenge not only encourages that type of innovation, but shows what it can accomplish.”

Major supporters of the challenge include Kennebunk Savings, Pierce Atwood, PixelMEDIA, Timberland and the NH Charitable Foundation.

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