On March 24, the Financial Times Social Innovation Awards confirmed the rise of a new force: student innovation. The Social Innovation Awards present a forum for organizations to highlight their latest methods for addressing social needs and promoting better business. Though some of the largest and most well-known corporations were among those competing for recognition, a small nonprofit, Sparkseed, went home with the prestigious Best Social Investment Strategy award.
Sparkseed uses a unique approach to help young risk-takers apply business principles to address the world's toughest problems. Founder Mike Del Ponte guides Sparkseed in identifying, incubating and investing in the next generation of social entrepreneurs. (Full disclosure: I serve on the selection committee for the enterprises that receive Sparkseed support).
As the recent success of Facebook demonstrates, college students can build revolutionary organizations with global impact. Sparkseed works to harness such capability to develop a new class of young entrepreneurs interested in social return on investment.
Del Ponte explains that "Students have the creativity, passion, and drive to address issues like climate change, poverty, and global health through novel ventures. But they often lack the means to turn outside -the-box thinking into ideas that yield social dividends. Arming this untapped brain trust with the right resources will have untold benefits for society."
Sparkseed has supported 31 ventures since 2007 and will select ten more on April 1. By leveraging an impressive network of partners, Sparkseed provides mentoring, skills training, executive coaching and consulting to each of its student-led ventures. And by investing capital directly in the student ventures, Sparkseed provides validation and financial resources to the best student ideas in hopes of yielding social returns and financial sustainability.
To learn more about Sparkseed and the ventures it supports, please visit www.sparkseed.org.
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