Visit D-Prize.org and your bound to do a double take when posed with the question:
“If you were awarded $20,000, how would you fight poverty?”
I had a chance to learn about this innovative program that identifies and funds promising social ventures that are still at an idea phase through a conversation with Nicholas Fusso. Nicholas serves as Program Director of D-Prize.
Q & A with Nicholas Fusso, Program Director of D-Prize
[Nicholas Fusso] D-prize is a competition program to identify top social entrepreneurs focused on innovative initiatives for distribution.
It was launched by Andrew Youn, of One Acre Fund. Andrew has been working with African farmers to help them become more sustainable. Since One Acre fund started in 2006 it has expanded in scope and scale, now serving over a 100K families.
Through his work at One Acre Fund, Andrew became increasingly frustrated because he saw easy solutions to major problems but they were not being scaled & distributed effectively. He and a few co-founders launched D-Prize to focus on the distribution end of the social enterprise equation. The “D” in D-Prize stands for “distribution equals development”.
How does D-Prize work? Is it an accelerator program?
[Nicholas] D-prize is not necessarily an accelerator program. It is a mechanism to fund ventures that are at the idea stage. Entrants are considered based on: (1) distribution-focused venture; 2) that can radically scale up (i.e. create massive amounts of impact). Ideal candidate will read the description and come up with concept that meets (1) and (2) and then can apply for D-Prize.
D-prize applications are generally accepted on a rolling basis. Our first round of applications was due April 30, 2013, and we received over 300 applications. The next deadline for applications for the Fall 2013 cohort will be November 30, 2013.
What are the requirements for candidates? U.S.-based? Proven Model?
How is D-Prize funded?
[Nicholas] By the co-founders & colleagues.
How is D-Prize structured?
[Nicholas] It has applied for non-profit status.
Tell us a little about yourself
[Nicholas] I have been in the role of Program Director since February 2013. When I started, D-Prize had already published and launched the first competition program, and interested applicants had about 5 weeks to submit an idea. We had an aggressive schedule but were able to identify entrepreneurs in that space.
A little about me…I studied political economics in college and had a lot of friends with idealistic goals pursue nonprofit and ngo-work. I was one of the few to go into business. My first social enterprise was right out of college, called “Sustainable of Sexy.” The mission was to educate people of coffee-drinking habits, especially sustainability of coffee-related goods, such as coffee cups. We took the problem on from a business perspective, trying to show how reusable coffee cups could be better for business all-around. We had a blog, and received some great press coverage. The whole experience really excited me about entrepreneurship. D-Prize was a great fit and has been an exciting experience.
What do you see as the connection between enterprise and impact?
[Nicholas] I see entrepreneurship as the surest path to sustainable development.
How is funding disbursed?
[Nicholas] People submit a 1st round application, then if its a good fit will invite them to a final round. Selected finalists will receive $10-20K funding. Payment method will be Lump sum or in parts, based on what makes more sense for the concept and work. It’s important to determine what type of venture to figure out how to fund. (i.e. build website, market, etc.). D-Prize does not necessarily take an equity stake. The amount of funding is partially based on the budget that applicants must include as part of the final application.
What are you looking for in D-Prize candidates?
[Nicholas] Measurable impact, and lots of it. Whether applicants are non-profit or for-profit, we look at whether they are committed to creating responsible change—that it part of their core business, and not just a consideration. Finally, we are look for ideas that are transformational in their approach to meeting the distribution challenge.
How does a team apply?
Back in Fall of 2011, Innov8Social interviewed Sustainable Silicon Valley’s Executive Director Marianna Grossman to learn about the organization and its efforts in building a consortium of diverse partners (corporations, non-profits, research institutions, agencies, consultants) dedicated to sustainability.
And now, Sustainable Silicon Valley (SSV)—in partnership with NASA Ames Research Center—has launched a bold, innovative initiative to actively encourage and seek out the best, viable, scalable solutions for advancing global sustainability.
SSV is calling for submissions for its Solutions for Planetary Sustainability Competition in conjunction with its 5th annual Water, Energy, Smart Technology (WEST) Summit set for May 23, 2013. At that event, sustainability solutions are usually showcased.
This year, for the first time, SSV is leveraging a competition style entry process (in addition to its regular registration) with professional review by a panel experts. The competition will also including a crowdsourcing component which will open up voting for solutions to the general public.
Innov8Social had a chance to catch up WEST Summit Program Manager, Martina Frndova to learn more about the Sustainability Solution Competition.
Here are a few highlights she mentioned:
What Do I need to Know Before Applying?
What is the Timeline for the Competition?
- Submit a Solution: Oct 1, 2012 to Jan 31, 2013
- Vote for Solutions: Feb 1, 2013 to Feb 22, 2013
- Finalists Announced: March 7, 2013 (evening event)
- Showcase Conference: All day May 23, 2013
How to Submit a Sustainability Solution
Here is SSV Executive Director, Marianna Grossman explaining the competition.
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We share this here in solidarity with our friends, colleagues, and especially with the amazing participants and students Innov8social has had the sincere honor to teach, work with, and share love of social entrepreneurship with who are people of color, who are African/African American men and women.
We see you. We are willing to have and help convene in any conversations that might help. Systemic racism means that the silence of broader systems and unconscious conditioning can oppress, repress, ad mute voices. Systemic racism cannot be solved in a day. It must be dismantled, so the system can be rebuilt more equitably and inclusively.
To our partners, past students and Impactathon participants who are African/African American aspiring and active social entrepreneurs of color...you have ideas that can change the world. We know it can feel lonely and scary to actually try to change the world with ideas, especially in a system that doesn’t feel designed to support you. Please connect with us and with communities who love and support you. You are not alone. You are valuable and your ideas and social innovations are worthy of being seen and heard.
The Innov8social Team
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