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Exploring 'Social Innovation Week' at UNH

By Rachel Bento

Contributing writer

Some people may ask “What is social innovation?” There are hundreds of ways to go about it. Gina Occhipinti, sophomore at UNH, gave her own definition for it. “I would say it is people creatively using their ideas to make an environmentally positive change in the world.”

Occhipinti is the founder of UNH’s new Social Innovation Week. Social Innovation Week is a week of events open to students and non-students focusing on educating people on social innovation and promoting positive change. Occhipinti came up with the idea while she was part of the Carsey Social Innovation internship and thought to bring more awareness to UNH and to hopefully spread the word. She stated, “My main goal is for people to find out what social innovation is, find how they can have a place with it, and put their thoughts into actions.”

Fiona Wilson, co-director for the center of social innovation and enterprise, hopes that students take a lot of knowledge home with them from this week. “First, I hope students will be inspired and encouraged by seeing other students and alumni making these big changes. It will make students realize that they have to power to do similar things themselves. We want students to be aware of what social innovation is and this idea that there are entrepreneurial business based solutions for environmental problems and that we can use the tools for entrepreneurship and business as a force for good in the world that can create a lasting change.”

Why bring this to UNH? Yusi Wang Turell, co-director for the center of social innovation and enterprise gives her opinion on why this is relevant to the students of UNH.

“UNH has deep roots in business and can use this as a force of good with the innovation and entrepreneurships’ deep seated desire to make the world a better place. We can use these as one vehicle to make these changes happen,” Turell said.

Social Innovation Week is hoped to become an annual event at UNH, and there are many ways to be a part of this exciting new movement. Students who are looking to change the world to an environmentally safe place can apply for the Carsey Social Innovation Internship. To become even more involved, anybody can apply to the New Hampshire Venture Innovation Challenge. This challenge is open to anybody in the state of New Hampshire and the Individual/team are supposed to identify the social and environmental problems across the state.

Fiona Wilson gave a piece of advice for students looking to join the challenge or for anybody interested in making a change.

“My biggest piece of advice would be to just do it,” Wilson said. “The whole point of the competition is that it is an early stage idea competition and that you do not have to have perfect solutions or wait until your ideas are fully articulated. This is to encourage people to put their ideas out there.”

For more information on how to get involved there is the Social Venture Innovation Challenge page on the UNH’s website. There is also information for the Carsey Social Innovation Internship along with who to contact with any other interests about Social Innovation on the university website.

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