Tavis Smiley and the University of Maryland Announce $75,000 Social Innovation Challenge

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Broadcaster Tavis Smiley, in partnership with the University of Maryland, will launch a $75,000 TS/UM Social Innovation Challenge to help address some of society’s most pressing issues in three key areas: hunger, education, and sustainability.  

The inaugural TS/UM Social Innovation Challenge invites aspiring entrepreneurs to develop transformative solutions to affect positive change for individuals and communities across the nation. The Challenge serves as a prompt for diverse groups of people to come together to solve specific societal issues by harnessing inventiveness and bringing innovative ideas to the marketplace.

Submissions will be evaluated by a panel comprised of representatives from academia, business, community/grassroots, government, nonprofit groups and the technology community. The winners will be announced in January 2014.

The TS/UM Social Innovation Challenge supports Tavis Smiley’s initiative to dramatically reduce poverty in America and the University of Maryland’s commitment to increase the number and quality of new businesses inspired by competition to create a large and strong new generation of entrepreneurs who benefit society.

"Solutions to the many daunting problems facing the United States and the global community will come from a diversity of thinking in the areas of science, engineering and technology," says Smiley. "I can think of no better way to invest in our collective well being than to invest in the minds of the future."

Adds Darryl Pines, Dean and Nariman Farvardin Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the Clark School, “I believe that competitions are crucial to create a climate of innovation and entrepreneurship, and for driving new advances in targeted social areas. The future economic growth and competitiveness of the United States depends on our capacity to innovate.”

The TS/UM Social Innovation Challenge will award a minimum of $25,000 each to three social innovators, one in each of the target impact areas of hunger, sustainability and education. Additionally, each winning entrant will have an opportunity to appear on the Tavis Smiley Network, receive an entrepreneur mentorship at the Clark School’s Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), and showcase their innovation at Platform Summit 2014.  

Key Information for Challenge Entrants:

Entrants’ submissions must include a written executive summary and short video articulating the issue being solved; methodology; a sense of the potential local, national and global impact of the solution; and more. 

  • Friday, July 12-September 13: Pre-registration for announcements and award increase
  • September 13, 2013 at 9:00am EST: Entrants may register online (no cost) and post project submissions
  • October 13, 2013 at 5:00pm EST: Deadline for entrants to register online (no cost) and post project submissions
  • November 2013: Finalists will be notified and invited to pitch their idea to the panel of judges
  • January 2014: Winners will be listed on tavistalks.com/socialinnovator and announced on the TAVIS SMILEY NETWORK

The winners and the three promising projects will share a minimum of $75,000 in cash prizes.  For more information, visit www.tavistalks.com/socialinnovator or via Twitter #socialinnovator.

A key aspect of the TS/UM Social Innovation Challenge is its emphasis on collaborations to advance social innovation.  For donors or partners interested in making a financial contribution to increase the cash award for solutions to promising innovators, please contact Denise Pines at (323) 290-1182 or dpines@tavistalks.com.

About Tavis Smiley

Tavis Smiley is host and managing editor of the nightly talk show Tavis Smiley on PBS produced by TS Media, Inc., and the host of The Tavis Smiley Show and co-host of Smiley & West from Public Radio International (PRI), both produced by Smiley Radio Properties, Inc.  Smiley is also the author/editor of 16 books, including New York Times bestsellers Covenant with Black America, What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America, and his most recent, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. In 2009, TIME magazine named him one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People. 2013 marks his 10th season on PBS and is the inaugural year for the Tavis Smiley Network (TSN) on BlogTalkRadio. For more information, visit www.tavistalks.com.

About A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland

The Clark School of Engineering, situated on the rolling, 1,500-acre University of Maryland campus in College Park, Md., is one of the premier engineering schools in the U.S., with graduate and undergraduate education programs ranked in or near the Top 20. In 2012, the Clark School was ranked 14th in the world by the Institute of Higher Education and Center for World-Class Universities in its Academic Ranking of World Universities. Three faculty members affiliated with the Clark School were inducted into the National Academy of Engineering within the last three years.

The school, which offers 13 graduate programs and 12 undergraduate programs, including degree and certification programs tailored for working professionals, is home to one of the most vibrant research programs in the country. The Clark School garnered research awards of $171 million last year. With emphasis in key areas such as energy, nanotechnology and materials, bioengineering, robotics, communications and networking, life cycle and reliability engineering, project management, intelligent transportation systems and aerospace, the Clark School seeks to develop engineering solutions that impact the lives of millions.


Published July 12, 2013