This spring saw the launch of a new Harvard competition, the “Venture Good” contest, in which student teams use the power of the marketplace to devise ways of helping society. The goal of the contest is to encourage the creation of self-sustaining social and arts enterprises – ventures that can actually make enough money to reasonably employ the participants, but whose fundamental purpose is simply (or complicatedly) to make the world a better place. The 2004 Venture Good contest was sponsored by the undergraduate Harvard Social Enterprise Club with the $1,000 prize for best plan donated by iRobot Corporation, a Burlington-based robotics technology firm.
The winner of the inaugural contest is a project called “Harvard ReStore,” submitted by a four-student team: Allison Rogers ’04, Esther Tian ’05, Michael Keating, a student at the Graduate School of Design, and Travis Good ’04. “Harvard ReStore” came up with ways to collect and refurbish the computers discarded by the University. Computers that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill somewhere will now be repaired and sold at low cost to groups that would otherwise not be able to afford them.
Contest runners-up were “Schoolbooks,” a textbook recycling venture designed to reuse discarded texts in secondary school systems, and “Strong Girls, Strong Women,” which provides self-esteem and leadership development programs to low-income, at-risk elementary-age girls in the Boston area. “Schoolbooks” is the project of a Harvard-Yale team, Kevin McCaffrey ’06 and Jeff Fugate, respectively. “Strong Girls, Strong Women” was created by Lindsay Hyde ’04.
To reach and pass the finalist stage, the winning and runner-up teams had to pass the scrutiny of an outside panel of business professionals. Plans were judged in the areas of feasibility, societal benefit, innovation, and ability to become self-sustaining. The contestants were assisted in preparing their business plans by Winston Tau, the Venture Good coordinator and adviser.