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CARE’s Scale X Design hosts pitch contest for social entrepreneurs

CARE's Scale X Design hosts pitch contest for social entrepreneurs

Global humanitarian organization CARE has awarded four teams from across the world a grand total of $300,000 as part of the second installment of the Scale X Design Challenge.

The winners were handpicked from 14 teams who pitched innovative solutions to global poverty and social impact. The social entrepreneurs all participated in CARE’s Scale X Design, a year-long social impact accelerator that builds core skills for scaling impact.

After grounding their work through core learning labs, teams participate in the pitch contest, where they present their ideas and vision for scale to a panel of expert judges. Held at the High Museum of Art, the winners from the latest cohort are UptakePreneur from West Bank Gaza, Nyeleni from Mali, A-Card from Bangladesh, and Circles of Change from Egypt.

“It’s really good to share. Winning is one part but sharing with so many people, sharing the idea and receiving the choice from the audience, it’s really, really great,” said Tana from A-Card, a debit card system that allows farmers to purchase agricultural resources with low-interest rates and more flexible payback plans than traditional loans. She explained that the people are at the heart of what they do. “The need of the workers for who we are working… They’re needed within that. From there, we really, really want to help them. That’s the best inspiration.”

Accommodating such a large number of participants, pitches were given in two separate rooms concurrently. The event was hosted by two award-winning journalists, Rose Scott of WABE and Fredricka Whitfield of CNN. The event boasted a turnout of 700 people and thousands more tuned in online for the Facebook Livestream.

For some of the global entrepreneurs it was their first time pitching in front of such a large crowd of people, and at that, having to communicate in their second, third and fifth language. Translators were needed for a few like one of the winning duo, Nyeleni which is a network of Farmer Field and Business Schools to educate and empower female farmers in Mali and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa.

Participants for the second cohort targeted issues like educating youth on sexual and reproductive health, informing farmers of weather forecasts and improving housing conditions for low-income residents. You can view all of the participating teams here.

President and CEO of CARE USA Michelle Nunn at Scale X Design

All the community change agents pitched for five minutes. They answered questions from the judges for all of three minutes. The judging panels consisted of James Bui, Ryan Gravel, Elena Matsui, Theia Washington Smith, and others. Scoring was based on aspects such as constant delivery and impact of presentation for two teams to take home the grand $100,000 dollars in grant money.

The audience was also invited to participate through a mobile app on their smartphones. Through their votes, two more teams were awarded $50,000 dollars each.

The first of its kind platform, CARE launched the Scale X Design Accelerator in 2016, taking the private sector model of promoting innovation and disruption to the development sector where it is desperately needed.

“We started looking at all the funding that goes to these incredible projects and we realized that the average is about under five years of funding,” said Dar Vanderbeck, an Atlanta native who os Chief Innovation Officer of CARE USA. “So, while we talk about sustainability, we don’t really have a way to go from a really effective transformational project to meaningful scale beyond one grant.”

Vanderbeck said that they looked around the private sector and foundation world and brainstormed what it would look like to build an accelerator where you can identify the inherited business model, test it out quickly and actually reach the type of scale that those across the world need.

Consequently, CARE is eyeing a goal of reaching 200 million people by 2020, and they believe the accelerator will help them achieve it.

Atlanta is one of two locations where teams will pitch their ideas for social change. Six of the teams with tech and social entrepreneurship also pitched in Silicon Valley. And then, the third cohort will launch in April with a focus on women’s economic empowerment.

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    Carlyn Pounders
    Carlyn Pounders
    Carlyn Pounders covers technology, business, and entrepreneurship at UrbanGeekz. She joined in 2017 after graduating from Georgia State University, where she was News Director at Georgia State Television.