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Awarding Seed Money To Bring Student Social Ventures To Life

Aired 3/5/12 on KPBS News.

The University of San Diego's 2012 Social Innovation Challenge

More than 50 students at the University of San Diego signed up to compete in the second annual "Social Innovations Challenge." The objective is to come up with a way to solve a social, economic or environmental problem plaguing San Diego or the world. There's $30,000 in seed money up for grabs.

KPBS Evening Edition

Social Innovation Challenge

You may own a pair of Toms made by a socially conscious company that matches every pair of shoes sold -- with a pair of new shoes for a child in need. Toan Tran is a business undergraduate at the University of San Diego -- hoping to provide a similar service for homeless people.

"So what's my business model? Its similar to Toms where every single product the consumer buys I donate one to a homeless person in need," Tran, said.

Like dozens of other students Tran had 5 minutes to pitch his idea for a backpack that converts into a sleeping tent. Then get a three minute feedback session from a panel of mostly business professionals.

One judge asked,"how do you wash it? Tran responded,"I haven't got to that part yet, its still in concept mode, he told the panelist.

Twenty-one-year-old Tiffany Owen knows what its like to be on both sides of the table. "I am really astounded and really impressed with all my peers ideas and how much time and thought they put into their projects," she said.

Owen actually won last years challenge with a recycling campaign in California to generate funding for a Clean Water project in earthquake damaged Haiti. "And by recycling in the community, you get like 5 cent CRV on each can and we use the money to purchase the filters and install them in Haiti," Owen proudly said.

The USD students come from business, law, nursing and every other school on campus. Last year 19 pitched their ideas and this year there were 52 applicants. The winners will be announced at the end of April.

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