President Drew Faust announced today the launch of the President’s Challenge for social entrepreneurship hosted through the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab). This effort is part of Harvard University’s commitment to social entrepreneurship and cross-School initiatives. President Faust is sponsoring this University-wide challenge seeking entrepreneurial solutions to the world’s most important social problems. This Challenge is designed to help students develop and execute solutions to complex systemic problems such as global warming or poverty. “The world’s most pressing problems heed no borders, and to better address them we need to work across boundaries to formulate solutions. I can think of no place better prepared to take on such challenges than Harvard,” said President Faust. The President’s Challenge has been created to give students concerned about global issues access to expertise in innovation and to the process of bringing great ideas to action.
“For generations, Harvard students and faculty have risen to the challenges posed by seemingly intractable problems,” said Harvard Provost Alan M. Garber, co-chair of the judging committee that will evaluate entries. “I look forward to seeing the creative solutions that this competition will prompt to answer the complex systemic problems that the world faces today.”
Dean David T. Ellwood, member of the i-lab advisory board and dean of the Harvard Kennedy School said, “All of Harvard’s Schools have powerful programs addressing key social issues. The President’s Challenge gives us a new opportunity to take a University-wide look at critical problems. The i-lab provides a new platform to harness the entrepreneurial energy across the University and focus it on problems that matter.”
The 2012 Challenge will kick off in late February, when a small panel of Harvard faculty will select and announce five important social problems and invite the University community to submit entrepreneurial responses to those problems. The faculty panel will be invited by President Faust and organized by Provost Garber and Professor William Sahlman of the Harvard Business School.
Mentoring and networking activities are planned for the six weeks that follow the selection of areas of focus, leading to the submission of project proposals from Harvard University student teams by mid-March. Ten student teams (two for each of the problem areas) will be named in early April and provided with support and resources that will aid in the development of prototypes. Following a “Demo Day” just before Commencement, one grand prize winner and up to three runners-up will be announced and awarded a share of a $100,000 total purse. The grand prize winner also will be awarded dedicated work space in the i-lab, mentoring, and access to expert resources in the i-lab through August 2012.
Gordon Jones, director of the i-lab said, “This is a great opportunity to accelerate the use of the i-lab by the students and faculty of all of Harvard’s Schools. We at the i-lab are fully committed to helping everyone at Harvard bring great ideas to action.”