Social Innovation Business Plans from San Diego Students Solve Global Issues - from Off-Grid Water to Customized Latrines for the Disabled

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USD, UCSD, San Diego State Students Awarded $75,000 in Live Social Innovation Challenge

Qualcomm Ventures Peoples Choice Award

Social Entrepreneurs - Best Ideas Take Home Cash

A proposal for an off-grid water purification system to sustain small communities with drinking water during disasters and emergencies was the big winner in the University of San Diego’s fifth annual Social Innovation Challenge.

The H2gO team from the University of San Diego was awarded $17,000 in seed money to support its proposal in the competition for innovative ventures to address social and environmental challenges. M. Parker Cohn, a mechanical engineering student, is the team leader. Cohn also received the $1,000 Audience Choice Award, sponsored by Qualcomm Ventures.

See a summary video of all of San Diego’s Winning Social Entrepreneurs Innovations

Godfreds Foundation, founded by University of San Diego international business student Fredrick Frimpong, was another big winner, taking home $14,000. The award money will support the development of a low-cost private school with an innovative experiential learning model in Frimpong’s native Ghana.

Other USD winners included CAPE: Community Allies for Psychological Empowerment ($5,000), which provides comprehensive mental health services to low income and under-served populations in San Diego; Simple Seat Better lives ($3,000), a team whose low-cost and portable toilet seat is designed to alleviate the difficulties of using a latrine with a disability, and Foxbat Dynamics ($1,000), a team of USD Engineering students developing robotic technologies to improve emergency services and public safety.

In a second track for students from other local universities, three teams were each awarded $10,000. Those were Bystanders to Upstanders, a University of California, San Diego, team launching an app to connect socially conscious organization and volunteers; EWH HIV Monitoring, a UCSD team developing a novel, cost-effective device for HIV testing in low-resource settings, and the Free Artists Network, a San Diego State University team developing an art education web platform and e-learning network to bridge the gap between arts-based education and contemporary art careers for creative students. Another San Diego State team, the East African Fellowship Program by CURE Africa, received $5,000 to develop their community-based and culturally relevant college preparatory program for East African youth in San Diego.

The University of San Diego’s Center for Peace and Commerce (CPC) hosted the competition. The event was curated by CPC Board member Cheryl Goodman, host of StartMeUpLIVE. Winners were announced at a ceremony on Friday afternoon. The competition awarded a total of $75,000 in seed money with $40,000 for University of San Diego teams and $35,000 for teams from other San Diego universities. A total of nine of the 15 finalist teams were awarded funds. The competition received over 100 submissions.

”The quality of the social venture submissions this year was outstanding,” said Stephen Conroy, economics professor and faculty director of the Center for Peace and Commerce. “The 15 student projects that advanced to the final round were very strong in terms of their social impact, financial sustainability and creativity. Our panel of highly-qualified judges had to make some very difficult decisions!”

Finalists pitched their impact ideas to judges from prominent local and national companies and nonprofit institutions including Qualcomm Ventures, Kimberly Clark and Project Concern International.

Donors for the University of San Diego track awards included the Verizon Foundation, Youtily, John and Nancy Jo Cappetta, the Price Family Foundation, the Purcell McNamara Foundation, Pacific Western Bank.

The Moxie Foundation ( funded the external track for students applying to the Social Innovation Challenge from other San Diego universities. Qualcomm Ventures supported the Live Audience Choice Award.

To learn more about the competition and the individual teams, go to

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