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The RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service Announce Winners of the 2009 Dell Social Innovation Competition

$50,000 Grand Prize Winner: A Sustainable Approach to Nutritional Independence for People Living with HIV/AIDS in Rwanda (Gardens for Health)
$10,000 Tomberg Prize in Environmental Sustainability: SolarCycle
$1,000 People’s Choice Award: Embrace: a $25 Infant Incubator for Developing Countries

The competition is about unleashing the imaginations of college students to dream big for the good of society. Students at all levels of study have incredible passion and vision and we want to guide that toward the social good.” – Peter Frumkin, Director of the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service

AUSTIN, Texas, May 8, 2009 AUSTIN, Texas– The RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and Dell announced the winners of this year’s Dell Social Innovation Competition. Gardens For Health, a team of two students won $50,000 in seed funding for their big idea to change the world.

Gardens For Health is a student social venture that teaches communities living with AIDS/HIV in Rwanda how to sustain nutrition independence. The team, comprised of Emily Morell of Yale University and Emma Clippinger of Brown university, beat out over 1100 other students from around the world to become this year’s Dell Social Innovation Competition winner. The team will use the seed funding on programs underway in Rwanda to create community gardens, obtain land rights, build micro-business and give nutritional education to those who suffer from AIDS/HIV.

The RGK Center started the Social Innovation Competition in fall of 2006 to offer students an opportunity to turn their unique ideas to change the world into a sustainable business or nonprofit organization. The program, designed to spark the imagination of as many students as possible, encourages undergraduate and graduate students from all departments and educational backgrounds to dream big and offer solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

This year, with sponsorship by Dell, the field of eligible students was expanded to include undergraduate and graduate level students from any college or university in the world. Over 1,200 students representing 250 universities in 33 countries entered the competition. Students offered insightful solutions in a number of areas, including education, healthcare, poverty, homelessness and global climate change.

Selecting from an extremely competitive field of exceptional ideas, the competition judges, which included UT faculty, nonprofit directors, foundation grantmakers and business leaders, chose three finalist teams.

The three teams competing at the final event were:

  • Gardens For Health – A Sustainable Aproach to Nutritional Independence for People Living with HIV/AIDS in Rwanda
    Team members: Emma Clippinger, Brown University and Emily Morell, Yale University
  • Embrace – A $25 infant incubator for developing countries
    Team members: Nate Meng and Linus Liang; Stanford University
  • I Need A Pencil.Com – Free online SAT prep for disadvantaged youth
    Team members: Jason Shah, Harvard University

“The final pitch to the judges had all the drama and emotion of a night on American Idol – but with a much loftier mission,” said Peter Frumkin, Director of the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service.

With this competition, we meet the new breed of entrepreneur – the social entrepreneur – who focuses his or her skills to tackle social problems with the vigor, determination, and passion of a start-up company. Social entrepreneurs are gaining attention for their innovative ideas like Teach for America and micro-lending which attack social problems with hands-on, risk-taking, entrepreneurial solutions. The UT Social Innovation Competition stimulates this same energy in students to use their own skills to solve entrenched social problems with new and creative solutions.