We had a great Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship course at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. The complete blog entry describing this is on the Eye on Earth blog, here.
The Acara Challenge was held February 8 at CoCo Minneapolis, a great place for our student entrepreneurs to hang out for a day. The results are on this page. Congratulations to all the teams, they were terrific!
At Acara, our mission is to influence the lives of others all around the globe through the support of students with world-changing ideas. On February 8th, we were lucky to work with ten talented groups of students who are ready to do just that. Our 2012-2013 Acara Challenge Finals were hosted on February 8 at CoCo Minneapolis in the Historic Grain Exchange, and were met with excitement and huge success.
On the morning of the event, we welcomed guest judges and students to the event; all enthusiastic to share their ideas and improve upon their work. Each group of students gave a fifteen-minute presentation about their business venture and participated in fifteen minutes of critique and dialogue with the judges and other visitors. These presentations were broadcast live on the website, which allowed the speakers to interact with listeners from halfway around the world. It was a very dynamic experience that engaged people with many different experience levels.
Over lunch, judges took the time to review the ventures and their viability, and rank the groups into gold, silver, bronze, or honorable mention categories. After the judges made their final decisions, each group had the opportunity to talk with Fred Rose and Julian Marshall to improve their business plans.
However, the most exiting part of the day was the open house in the evening. Over one hundred guests were met with food and fun, each bringing their own experience with entrepreneurship and social ventures. The visitors had the opportunity to speak to students and look at their posters, as well as network with other individuals and learn more about the Acara program. We also had visits from past Acara successes including Eat for Equity, Perk Health, myRain, and no thro, as well as the newer ventures HSD Sanitation, Feed our Roots, and University-Dinkytown Grocery Store. These participants were excited to pass the torch onto the new generation of Acara graduates that are prepared to make a difference in today’s world.
Each group- past and present- then gave a two-minute pitch to the Acara community about their business, its plans, and its triumphs. The guests were able to experience CoCo’s unusual atmosphere by enjoying beanbag chairs, exercise balls, and ample standing room on different levels of the space. It is difficult to imagine such a space without witnessing it first-hand, but it seemed to receive a warm welcome from our visitors.
The beautiful atrium of the Historic Grain Exchange shook with applause from our crowd of guests following each presentation. It seems as though every person in the room really understood that we were onto something great. We were very thankful to find support from so many community members, and were enthralled to see them having just as much fun as we were. We hope our work can inspire them just as much as their work and help inspires us!
It was excellent to see such a broad range of ideas represented from a diverse group of students. Although this marks the end of another great Acara season, we are now ready to see our past partners continue to thrive and watch our new winners grow and find success.
Written by Dominique Boczek
The week of Jan 14-18, 18 intrepid students gave up a week of their semester break to spend on the quiet St. Paul campus to work on their social venture idea. It was a terrific class, with a combination of ideas for Africa and India, and right here in Minnesota. The day course is a combination of learning skills and tools to help a budding entrepreneur and a steady stream of outside guests. A number of these ideas will be in the Acara Challenge on Feb 8, those ideas will be posted soon.
The week set up and guests, below:
- Day 1 – Who Cares? Guests: Brad Lohrding (Logic PD) on design thinking, entrepreneurs Emily Torgrimson (Eat For Equity) and A.J. Schwidder (Upstream Technologies).
- Day 2 – Do The Math. Guests: Sam Reid (Tact) on social value proposition, entrepreneurs Joy McBrien (Joylery, Fair Anita ) and Simone Ahuja (Blood Orange).
- Day 3 – Tell Me a Story. Guests: Todd Reubold (IonE) on presenting, entrepreneur Joel Hodroff (Dual Currency).
- Day 4 – Show Me The Money. Guests: Heather Durenberger (Management consultant) on development and leadership, Brad Brown (Socentia) on social venture funding, Jessica Marshall (Science writer) on crowdfunding; entrepreneurs Brian Peterson (STLF) and Kyle Coolbroth (CoCo).
- Day 5 – Make it a Habit. Final presentations.
Currently Julian Marshall and Brian Bell are leading a group of 15 UMN students on a study abroad class in New Delhi. There are a number of blogs following them, including:
This has been a great trip for the students and the teachers, they are learning much about infrastructure, and societal, issues in India.
With the start of a new academic year, comes a new group of students interested in the Acara program. What is the Acara program exactly? That’s a great question, this entry will at least try to give an overview of what it is and why it might be interesting to you.
Like many of the social ventures we support, Acara is a hard organization to define. A simple statement to define what we do would be: Acara is a series of courses and incubation actions to turn the passion of students and mentors into viable social ventures in the US and abroad.
For new students, the courses are the place to start. While one distinguishing factor of Acara is post-course, and even post-graduation, work with students, courses are where the process starts. It’s also worth noting that we expect to have these courses cross listed by January in the following schools: Design, Public Affairs, Public Health and CFANS. That should help you apply them to respective electives in those schools.
I don’t want to repeat anything already on the description of the courses, but here is some more background. Generally traditional university students come to us in one of two situations; they have an idea for a social venture, or they are interested but have no specific idea.
If you are in the former category, a good place to start is CE5572: Design for Sustainable Development: Create I. (Offered in January 2012 as CE 5180). This 2013 J term course is intended for students that already have an idea. The course will help you get that idea into a more stable and viable form. The idea can be for anywhere in the world or for a non-profit, for-profit or anything in between.
If you are in the second category, a really good place to start is the CE4011 / CE5011: Design for Sustainable Development: Discovery India course. This is a study abroad program, also to be held in January 2013. It is a great learning opportunity to understand what the problems really are in India. You will meet many experts and spend plenty of time in the field seeing things for yourself. And you will meet students from TERI University that will also be working on the Acara Challenge. These students will be collaborating with the spring course of CE5571. An ideal scenario would be that you then take CE5571 to develop a solution for some of the challenges you saw in January. That’s not a requirement but it would be a good sequence.
The Acara Summer Institute, is a signature event of Acara. It is an intensive mix of field and course work. It has not been offered for credit to date, and is invitation only, but we are working to make it for credit (if desired) in June 2013. That would also mean changing the admission process but generally we will continue to use the Acara Challenge as way to offer scholarships to the best teams to this program.
Why should you take these courses? That’s of course a pretty individualized question but the general answer is that these course will greatly help you develop a better sense of the increasingly complex world of addressing environmental and social challenges. You can call them social ventures, impact ventures or anything else, but the point is that developing solutions to these global challenges is critical and something many students want to work on. We don’t care what your major is or whether you consider yourself a social entrepreneur or not, these skills you learn will help you be more impactful in whatever you do after university.
Acara Challenge Finals
The Acara Challenge is an opportunity for UMN students, as well a students from select other universities, to review their venture ideas in front of a panel of experts. This is a competitive event with scholarship funding available to winning teams. Funding is intended to help teams pilot their venture ideas. The Challenge finals will be held in early February 2013.
A major component of the Acara program is the opportunity to continue to get support, even after the courses end, or even after you graduate. For select ventures, Acara remains involved to help incubate and launch the idea. Two examples of this are MyRain , a drip irrigation business in India and Eat For Equity a nonprofit organization in Minneapolis.