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Jan. 7 2010 - 7:19 pm | 317 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

New Stanford University competition aimed at fostering social movements

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A business plan-like competition aimed at helping entrepreneurs  design their very own social movement. That’s the aim of a new and intense contest kicking off on Saturday at Stanford University.

Called the Social-M Challenge, the competition is sponsored by a host of people, but mostly by various departments at Stanford University.  There are two phases to the contest, which goes on for a total of six weeks. (I said it was intense). The first focuses on design, the second on implementation, with a panel of judges assessing competitors at each stage.  Winners win a total of $15,000, plus access to various consultants.

Each year, the competition will be focused on one theme. This time, it’s targeting, in the words of the Social-M Challenge web site  “Those that aspire to change collective behavior or social norms in the pursuit of environmental sustainability.”  That means an effort that, for example, motivates people to improve energy efficiency or “environmental justice.” (Their words). Group members can come from anywhere but one of them has to be a Stanford student.

The kick-off, described as an “idea boot camp”, features talks and workshops led by people from such organizations as Virgance and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation.

So, six weeks is not a lot of time to create a plan for “high-impact social movements” and changing “behavior or social norms”.  But, it’s an interesting approach.  And, since Stanford is a hotbed for such social entrepreneurial ideas, anyway, it could be a useful way to jumpstart a partially formed enterprise.

It’s certainly an innovative twist on the business-plan competition model.


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    It's just in the past few years that I've become interested in not-only-for-profit startups and small businesses. In fact, I can remember a time when I thought the concept of "enlightened capitalism" was simply an oxymoron. Now, I see the possibilities. Plus, it combines my own political bent with my long-time coverage of small business for such places as the New York Times, Business Week, CNNMoney.com, Portfolio.com, Harvardbusinessonline, and Fortune. Otherwise, I live with my son, a soccer fanatic, my husband, a journalist and avid rower, in Pelham, NY. My daughter, a former varsity wrestler, is away at college, studying art. You can see more of my work at www.annefieldonline.com. Or follow me on Twitter@annearfannearf.

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