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Social Venture Innovation Challenge crowns winners

The New Hampshire Social Venture Innovation Challenge (SVIC) saw its fourth social innovation competitors take home the prize last Thursday, Nov. 1 as the final segment of the annual competition occurred at Holloway Commons.

Jit Banerjee, a UNH master’s student studying public policy, was the winner of the social track of the competition. His proposal addressed the climate issues in Bangladesh that are forcing rice farmers to switch to shrimp cultivation.

Banerjee’s project involved a consulting firm called Aquinput that would help shrimp cultivators in Bangladesh gain access to inputs, certification and the global markets. Banerjee said in a video promoting his project that he hopes to help raise the income for the shrimp farmers in Bangladesh and hopes to provide financial aid to those who could be affected by climate disasters.

The SVIC involves participants with a passion in a current social and/or environmental issue, who then create an innovative business plan that addresses this social issue. The Social Innovation Challenge encourages participants by being an “Innovation Accelerator,” and has participants from all over New Hampshire in groups or working alone on their projects.

Aquinput, Banerjee’s project, was judged by Social Venture experts, some home to the New Hampshire and New England Area. Banerjee took first place in the student track of the challenge, while DreamTech Water Solutions and Full Spectrum Broadband tied for first place in the community track.

The runner up for the student track was Biàn and the Great Bay, which involved a group of students who proposed a way to prevent nitrogen inputs in the Great Bay.

In addition to choosing the winners of the SVIC, the Social Innovator of the Year Award was also presented to Pax World Funds president and CEO Joe Keefe.

Finalists received cash prizes, with the first place winner of the social track winning $5,000, a social entrepreneur membership and a registration to the annual conference through the New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility.     UNH senior environmental engineering major Kyle Parks-Damon was part of the second place group for the social track section the competition, Biàn and the Great Bay.        “We worked extremely hard on this project though, pouring over dozens of articles and postulating what might be done to help prevent pollution from entering the Great Bay and water around the world,” Parks-Damon said. “Our selection to participate in the final round, and ultimately our selection for second place in the student track, is extremely validating and empowering.”     While the window for next year’s Social Venture Innovation Challenge has not opened up yet, it is never too early to start thinking about potential social issues and what could be done to help.

“I would tell any potential participants that no idea is a bad one. There are innumerable problems in the world; the only way they’ll be solved is for every person to take genuine interest in addressing them,” Parks-Damon said.

Registration for the SVIC usually begins at the beginning of the fall semester of each year, and this includes a written summary of the project, as well as a video component to introduce the social problem and the potential solution for the problem being proposed. 

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